Fri Jan 02 11:28:34 UTC 2009
LONDON (Reuters) – The government will consider regulating the food industry if a three-year health lifestyle campaign fails to reduce obesity levels in England, Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said on Friday.
The government kicks off the Change4Life campaign on Saturday with television, magazine and billboard adverts urging people to adopt a more healthy lifestyle.
The action is being taken after forecasters said obesity was rising so fast that by 2050 four out of 10 children and nine out of ten adults will be overweight or obese.
The government is seeking over the next 11 years to reduce child obesity back to the level reached in 2000.
Bradshaw said the government had decided to work with food manufacturers and supermarkets rather than imposing legally binding nutrition rules.
“We have already made progress on things like labelling and fat and salt content working with the industry,” he told BBC radio.
“But … if this three-year campaign does not succeed, we don’t rule out regulating in future.”
The government banned the advertising of junk foods during children’s television programmes in April 2007 but has resisted calls to extend the restrictions.
Health lobby groups say the obesity crisis is being fuelled by food companies who put too much salt, fat and sugar in their products and have criticised their involvement in the campaign.
A coalition of 35 food, supermarket, fitness and advertising companies are contributing sponsorship worth 200 million pounds to the campaign, on which the government is spending 75 million pounds.
Planned schemes include PepsiCo UK running adverts promoting active play, supermarket Asda promoting the cycling event Bike4Life and Unilever supporting the Change4Life campaign through its Flora sponsorship of the London Marathon.
“What we fear is that the industry is very willing to give 200 million pounds to the campaign as a way of deflecting the government’s interest in regulation,” National Obesity Forum board member Tam Fry told BBC radio.
He said greater regulation of the food industry was needed to tackle rising obesity.
“Unless you get the food to the right quality and unless you avoid the prospect of advertising junk food to children, you are going to have a continuation of the problem.”

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