New trade deals may risk obesity plans

4 March 2021
A report from Sustain reveals that government plans to tackle obesity could be at risk from trade deals.

Today marks World Obesity Day, and our friends at Sustain are launching their Trick or Trade Report. The report looks at how trade policies might impact children’s health.


Research conducted by the London School of Economics has found future trade partners’ demands could lead to an influx of cheap, unhealthy food. Several potential trading partners, including the US, Canada and Australia, are home to large food corporations and so they have an interest in increasing junk food sales. Evidence is provided of countries using trade agreements to prevent other countries introducing anti-obesity measures.

While a third of children leave primary school overweight or obese, the government has already removed tariffs on cane sugar and made it easier and cheaper to import junk food. Cheap, unhealthy food may encourage poorer families to make less healthy choices, which will further the UK’s existing health inequalities.

Sustain calls on the government to:

  • Assert its right to regulate for public health as part of core trade negotiating objectives.

  • Conduct impact assessments of free trade agreements on human health.

  • Commit to parliamentary input to negotiating strategies, provide updates on negotiations, and give adequate debate time and parliamentary votes on final deals.

  • Establish a multi-agency integrated governance system for food and trade, with health at its core.