© Scott Warman
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has responded to the UK government’s announcement of a new obesity campaign to help people lose weight.
A raft of measures has been introduced as part of the government’s new strategy to get the nation fit and healthy, to protect themselves against Covid-19 and alleviate pressure on the NHS.
These measures include:
Responding to obesity strategy, Tim Rycroft, chief operating officer at FDF said: “The UK’s food and drink manufacturers and the half a million people we employ – so recently the heroes heralded by the government for feeding the nation during the Covid crisis – will be reeling today from this punishing blow.
“As the economy struggles to recover, new restrictions on promoting and advertising everyday food and drink will increase the price of food, reduce consumer choice and threaten jobs across the UK. And all to save 17 calories a day.
Rycroft welcomed the promotion of physical activity, but stated that the package looked like a missed opportunity.
“After months in which people have thought more about diet and exercise, we could have embarked on a bold programme to promote healthier lifestyles and better diet choices – encouraging consumption of fibre, fruit and vegetables,” he commented, in a release on the FDF website. “Instead, at the heart of this programme are old and discredited policies that will raise prices, limit choice and hit two of the UK’s most successful industries.”
Speaking about the proposed bans of promotions and advertising, Rycroft said: “It is extraordinary that the government is proposing a ban on promotions of food and drink in retail at such a precarious economic time.
“With household budgets more stretched than ever before, the Scottish government recently reversed its decision to press ahead with promotional restrictions. They said the Covid crisis had rendered their impact assessments meaningless. Why are things different in England?
“Government is pulling in different directions. From August the Chancellor is paying for people to eat out whilst the health secretary is proposing banning promotions on the same foods in supermarkets.
“Further, there is very limited evidence that these measures will effectively tackle obesity. The UK government’s own figures suggested that proposed bans on advertising and promotions combined would only reduce children’s average calorie consumption by 17 calories per day.
“For more than a decade, our industry has worked willingly with successive governments to reduce salt, fat and sugars. Government is right in its renewed ambition for a healthier, more active population, but it is also time it put real money behind specific, targeted measures to help those most afflicted by obesity, rather than relying on headline chasing measures.”
Commenting on the impact the strategy may have on shoppers, Rycroft said: “If price promotions are banned, already hard-pressed shoppers can expect to see their weekly shop become more expensive, at a cost of £600 per family. We have already seen evidence of this during the current crisis. Government policies should not put further pressure on rising food costs, which will disproportionately hit the tightest household budgets.”
He continued: “Manufacturers, meanwhile, will see little point in introducing lower-sugar or lower-calories variants of their products into a market in which it will not be possible to advertise or promote them to shoppers. Since 2006, industry has worked in partnership with government and 100s of everyday products have been reformulated to make them healthier, in-line with government guidelines.
“Healthier choices will now fall foul of the government’s illogical rules. Start-ups and challenger brands will find it much harder to get ‘share of shelf’ against established brands without promotions to raise their profile, leading to less choice for shoppers.”
Speaking on behalf of the new strategy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said: “Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier. If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus – as well as taking pressure off the NHS.”
While health and social care secretary Matt Hancock commented: “Everyone knows how hard losing weight can be so we are taking bold action to help everyone who needs it. When you’re shopping for your family or out with friends, it’s only fair that you are given the right information about the food you’re eating to help people to make good decisions.
“To help support people we need to reduce unhelpful influences like promotions and adverts that affect what you buy and what you eat. Taken together, supported by an inspiring campaign and new smart tools, will get the country eating healthily and losing the pounds.”
Hancock continued: We know obesity increases the risk of serious illness and death from coronavirus – so it’s vital we take action on obesity to protect the NHS and improve our nation’s health.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020