A fresh attempt to help tackle childhood obesity through legislation is being launched today.
Debra Shipley MP is due to present a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons aimed at improving children’s diets.
The Bill would require the Food Standards Agency to specify criteria for healthy and unhealthy foods, taking into account nutritional content and use of additives.
The criteria would then be used for a ban on marketing unhealthy foods at children.
The Children’s Food Bill also requires new regulations to improve school meals, demands practical food skills be included in the National Curriculum, and seeks a ban on the sale of unhealthy foods in school vending machines.
Ms Shipley, Labour MP for Stourbridge, introduced a Bill last year calling for a ban on advertising of food and drink high in fat, salt or sugar during children’s television. It failed after running out of parliamentary time.
“Obesity has doubled in six-year-olds and trebled among 15-year- olds over a 10-year period,” Ms Shipley said.
“As a consequence, adult-onset diabetes is now being seen in schoolchildren.
“It is not surprising that the Chief Medical Officer has described the problem as a ‘public health time bomb’ that needs to be defused.
“It is no longer good enough to hold consultations, produce reviews and call on the industry to mend its ways. Action is urgently needed.
“This Bill will bring forward a wide range of measures to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic and improve children’s diet-related health.”
Children’s Food Bill
The Children’s Food Bill has been developed by Sustain, the food and farming alliance, with support from 114 national organisations including the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Friends of the Earth, Royal College of General Practitioners and the National Union of Teachers.
Charlie Powell, project officer at Sustain, said: “As huge profits are at stake, calls for the junk food industry to act voluntarily are simply naive.
“Our coalition of 114 national organisations recognises that statutory measures to improve children’s diets are urgently needed.”
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.