Andy Burnham, the UK shadow health secretary, is set to announce that Labour will introduce strict limits on levels of fat, salt and sugar in food marketed to children, as part of a wider strategy to improve public health.
Burnham will today announce that the anti-obesity measures will be put in place if a Labour government is elected in the UK general election this May.
In a speech announcing the plans later today, the minister will also criticise the current Conservative government's approach to the food industry, which mostly voluntary agreements. He is expected to attack Prime Minister David Cameron for failing to stand up for British children, arguing that the current government is “too close to powerful vested interests” to stand up for children on public health issues.
Burnham has, however, made it clear that the Labour plan will only affect ‘the worst offenders’, and not the whole food industry.
Cereals, crisps and soft drinks could fall foul of the new policy. However, only companies that are judged to be advertising specifically at children – for example using cartoon characters - will be affected by the regulation.
It is also understood that the government would not itself dictate the acceptable levels for the three hit list ingredients – and would instead work with the Food Standards Agency and industry to develop the policy in more detail.
New food policy?
The pledge on caps for foods marketed to children is the only firm commitment in a new Labour food policy, on which Burnham will also promise to pursue improvements in food labelling and explore options to tackle high-strength, low-cost alcoholic drinks.
"Labour has traditionally led the way on public health and this new approach will chart a new course towards a healthy nation in the 21st century," he will say in his speech at Demos think tank in London. "Children need better protection from the pressures of modern living and the harm caused by alcohol, sugar and smoke and Labour will not flinch from taking the action needed to provide it."
The minister will also add further backing to the creation of a 'traffic light' system to make it easier for parents to understand the amount of fat, sugar and salt in the foods they buy for their family.
An ‘unworkable’ promosal?
Katharine Jenner, campaign director for Action on Sugar commented: “One of the greatest failures in tackling Britain’s obesity epidemic is the current government’s appeasement of the food industry.”
“We cannot allow this to go on any longer.”
However, Barbara Gallani, director of regulation, science and health at the Food and Drink Federation, warned that the proposed solution is ‘unworkable’, and that limits on single ingredients and nutrients do not work.
“Educating families on what an appropriate portion size looks like, as well as frequency of consumption, is key rather than the introduction of unworkable limits on certain nutrients which would jeopardise the quality of some of the world-renowned foods that are made in the UK,” she said.