Report claims curfews on junk food sales can ‘turn the tide’ on UK obesity

The UK can ‘turn the tide’ on obesity levels by clamping down on the sale and advertisement of unhealthy food, the Obesity Health Alliance claims.

Its decade-long proposed strategy published on Tuesday, demands a clampdown on junk food advertising and better promotion of healthier alternatives.

The strategy says the government must ‘reframe’ obesity as an issue of ‘collective, rather than personal responsibility’, and argues that people are exposed to environment from childhood “In which calorie-dense, nutrient-poor food is accessible, abundant, affordable and normalised and where physical activity opportunities are not built into everyday life”.

The alliance, which includes the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK and royal medical colleges, criticised successive governments’ failure to resolve the issue.

Professor Dame Anne Johnson, chairman of the expert working group advising the alliance, said: “If the Government commits to bold new policies, we can turn the tide, reducing obesity and greatly improving our nation’s health.”

They also expressed support for Government plans to ban paid-for advertising online for unhealthy food and drink and introduce 9pm watershed on TV for such ads.

The strategy’s policy recommendations include reducing access to unhealthy items by licensing retailers or curbing hours during which certain products can be sold.

It also said better clarity should be given on employers’ legal responsibilities to not to discriminate against employees based on weight.

A Health Department spokesman said: ‘The new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities is launching next month which will spearhead national efforts to tackle obesity, improve mental health and promote physical activity.’

Responding to the Alliance’s proposals, Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “No sooner has the government tabled an unprecedented raft of nanny state measures designed to tackle obesity than the Obesity Health Alliance demands a raft of new taxes and bans.

He added “It is clear that nothing short of state control of the food supply will appease these fanatics. Their policy proposals are unworkable, unscientific and illiberal. It would be almost comical if this organisation didn’t have so much influence on the government.”