A ban on junk food advertisements before 9pm and increased taxes on sugary drinks are two recommendations set out in a new report to tackle obesity in the UK.
Published by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the report follows a six-month inquiry by a steering group comprising representatives from 20 of the Royal Medical Colleges and Faculties.
The report sets out 10 recommendations for healthcare professionals, local and national government, the food industry and schools in a bid to help tackle the nation’s obesity crisis. Ultimately, the report calls for unhealthy food to be treated like cigarettes.
Professor Terence Stephenson, a paediatrician and chair of the Academy, said: “As health professionals, we see it across all our disciplines – from the GP’s surgery to the operating table and everything in between. So it is no exaggeration to say that it is the biggest public health crisis facing the UK today. Yet too often, vested interests dub it too complex to tackle. It’s now time to stop making excuses and instead begin forging alliances, trying new innovations to see what works and acting quickly to tackle obesity head on – otherwise the majority of this country’s health budget could be consumed by an entirely avoidable condition.”
Figures claim that about a quarter of adults in the UK are classed as obese, with predictions this will double by 2050, especially as a third of primary school leavers are already overweight.
The recommendations include: food-based standards to be mandatory in all UK hospitals; a ban on new fast food outlets located close to schools and colleges; a duty on all sugary soft drinks, increasing the price by at least 20%; traffic light food labelling to include calorie information for children and adolescents – with visible calorie indicators for restaurants, especially fast food outlets; £100 million in each of the next three years to be spent on increasing provision of weight management services across the country; and a ban on advertising of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before 9pm.
The report marks the start of a campaign to tackle obesity. Professor Stephenson said the Academy would work with a variety of individuals and organisations to address each of the recommendations. “The healthcare profession has taken the step of uniting to take action – and we’re calling on others to step up and take responsibility too.”