No more deep-fried chocolate bars, fry-ups and shortbread. A major new campaign launched yesterday by the Scottish government will seek to improve the diet of the Scots in a bid to combat the nation's poor record in health problems.
The Healthy Eating campaign, announced by the Scottish Executive, will aim to inspire and educate consumers about healthy eating. With the co-operation of retailers, a special helpline and a dedicated website offering advice, the Executive hopes it will stimulate demand and enthusiasm for healthy food.
Announcing the campaign in Glasgow, First Minister Jack McConnell said:"Healthy eating is the start of healthy living and we must step up our attack on this country's poor diet. Improving our diet will not only allow us to live longer and more happily, it will also increase productivity, create a better society and enhance Scotland's reputation.
"We have been unhealthy for too long. I want the healthy choices facing Scots to be the easy choices. That means educating people, raising standards in school and hospital meals, making fruit and vegetables more accessible to everyone in their own community and changing quality within the industry."
McConnell stressed the fact that the campaign was a long term challenge. "This is not an overnight campaign. I am determined that the next generation of Scots will be a healthier and happier one," he said.
Scotland's Food and Health Co-ordinator, Gillian Kynoch, who has spent the last 18 months working on the campaign, commented:"Research undertaken by the Health Education Board for Scotland shows 80 per cent of Scots have tried to change their diet in the past year and were aware of the basic healthy eating messages. However, it also found most people have poor understanding of how to apply them.
"This campaign, which will allow Scots to get telephone and online advice about how to change their diet, will help address those problems and demonstrate that small step by step changes can make a difference to your general health, now and in the future.
"By linking this campaign into other work already being undertaken by the Executive, and partners such as HEBS, FSA and Scottish Community Diet Project - for example, the introduction of nutritional standards for school meals, provision of fruit in nurseries, healthy food tasting sessions in low income communities and 'learn to cook' initiatives - I am convinced we can help create a national movement for change and health improvement.
"A movement which will lift this country from its unenviable position near the bottom of the European health league towards a placing in which we can all be proud."
Flora McLean, director of the Scottish Food and Drink Federation, voiced approval and stressed the support of the food manufacturing industry: "The Scottish food and drink manufacturing industry welcomes any addition to the range of healthy lifestyle information already available to consumers from manufacturers, retailers and health professionals to help them enjoy a healthy diet. The FDF food fitness programme demonstrates the industry's willingness to play its part."
Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm added: "Poor diet is the second biggest factor in Scotland's high rates of premature death from cancer, heart disease and stroke. Despite this, most Scots are still eating too much fat, sugar and salt and not enough fruit and vegetables.
"The Executive is investing an extra £40 million (€61.5m) over three years in tackling heart disease and stroke as part of our CHD/Stroke Strategy, and an additional £60 million in improving cancer diagnosis, treatment and care.
"If we don't make these changes, in 20 years' time experts have warned that our health will have become worse not better. We will be facing obesity problems on a par with US, type 2 diabetes will have reached epidemic proportions and our children will be facing a shorter life expectancy than our own."
He continued: "In contrast, we have much to gain from seizing this opportunity to change our diet for the better - the opportunity to lead a fitter, fuller life, a greater chance of seeing our children and grandchildren grow up, and an increased likelihood of leading an independent, active life in old age."
The Executive has allocated £1.75 million to the campaign in the first financial year (2002-03). The move will target five key areas: promoting a healthy diet and food choices through education and role models; promoting the provision of balanced meals through public and private sector catering, schools meals, training and catering awards; increasing access to affordable, healthier food through local planning, retailing and community food initiatives; working with the food manufacturing, processing and retailing industries to develop healthier food choices; and, finally, ensuring that agriculture and fisheries contribute to the Scottish dietary targets.