Sugar fears branded 'collective madness'

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

The Government has delayed the release of the childhood obesity strategy for the third time
The Government has delayed the release of the childhood obesity strategy for the third time

Related tags Obesity

Discussions about how the Government tackles the UK’s growing obesity problem are taking place ‘against a backdrop of collective madness’ according to Institute of Economic Affairs director Christopher Snowden. 

Panic about sugar is doing little to change people’s eating habits, Snowden told delegates at a discussion on the Conservative party’s policy on food and health. The Government has delayed the release of its childhood obesity strategy for the third time, with it now expected to appear after the summer’s  EU referendum. 

“There are two delusions: one that there is single ingredient - sugar- that is the cause of obesity and the second is that the food industry can remove calories without affecting taste. It feels like an easy win to say if we raise the price of fizzy drinks by a couple of pence and get the food industry to reformulate meals then without any kind of personal responsibility or self-restraint we will become less fat. This is not helped by the narrative driven by Action on Sugar. “

He argued a sugar tax, which is increasingly popular with campaigners, would take billions of pounds out of peoples’ pockets and disproportionately affect those on lower incomes. 

However, founder of think tank the Food Foundation Laura Sandys argued that although a sugar tax was not a ‘silver bullet’, government leadership was necessary to prevent 74% of men and 64% of women become obese by 2030. 

Clearer calorie labelling called for 

Both Snowden and MP and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Food and Drink Manufacturers John Stevenson backed calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks in pubs. 

“I think if a bottle of wine had the number of calories plastered across it people would think maybe I won’t have that extra glass,” Stevenson said. 

Snowden added: “I think with wine in particular, people would be surprised at how many calories it contains and I do think they should have calorie labelling.”

Earlier this week, the Local Government Association urged pubs to take action on salt, arguing that pub chains must commit to cutting salt in a bid to save lives. Councillor and spokesperson Izzi Seccombe said that thousands of deaths from diseases like high blood pressure could be prevented if the industry tackled added salt. 

Research from​ found main course meals at pub chains including JD Wetherspoons and Whitbread’s Beefeater contained over 8 grams of salt. NHS guidelines recommend that adults over the age of 11 should have just 6 grams of salt a day. 

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