PM looks to discard healthy eating plans

14 September 2022
The government is set to review its anti-obesity plans, in a move that could endanger the health of our children.

The Treasury has ordered a review of anti-obesity policies, which is said to be ‘deregulatory in focus’, The Guardian has revealed. This is particularly concerning given the soaring cost of living, the energy crisis and the lack of parliamentary time available for scrutiny.

The review is thought to be broad and may even dump the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL), which saw the number of sugary drinks bought almost halve within a year. The SDIL has been earmarked to fund school breakfasts and sport, and many experts have called for its scope to be expanded.

This news comes after an earlier setback in May this year, when Boris Johnson delayed plans to ban adverts and promotions of unhealthy food, only weeks after they were given royal assent. This was done despite evidence that promotions lead to people spending more money and banning ads sees people eating less unhealthy food.

During her leadership campaign, the new PM said that people wanted government “cutting the NHS waiting lists, helping people get a GP appointment. They don’t want the government telling them what to eat.” These things are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are clearly interdependent, given the wealth of evidence that links diet with health. 

Healthier food is nearly three times as expensive as less healthy food. As described by The Food Foundation, this means that the poorest fifth of UK households need to spend 47% of their disposable income on food to eat a healthy diet, compared to just 11% for the richest fifth.

The financial and health difficulties that will be brought by the worsening cost of living crisis entering the colder months will only be exacerbated by people being unable to afford healthy food.

Parliament will potentially sit for only five days of business between mid-July and mid-October this year. This means there is little opportunity for scrutiny of such decisions as we enter a winter plagued by a cost of living crisis. We are still waiting for the government report on its Sugar Reduction Programme, which was promised by early 2022.

We urge the government to heed the advice of experts, and to safeguard the health of our children. It can do this by implementing the planned protections from junk food and pioneering healthy-eating initiatives, such as those included in the National Food Strategy.