Will plans to halve child obesity hurt low-income families?

Radical new measures unveiled by health secretary as British youngsters overtake US school kids on fat scale

The rise in fast food outlets has been partly blamed for Britain's obesity epidemic
(Image credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Advertising unhealthy foods on television will be banned before the 9pm watershed while restaurants and takeaways will be forced to display calorie counts under new measures aimed at halving levels of childhood obesity within 12 years.

It comes as the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Sun on Sunday that British school kids are now fatter than their American counterparts, and obesity is in danger of becoming the norm.

“We have childhood obesity rates that are the third worst in Europe” he said, adding that “at primary school, one in ten children arrive obese – one in five children leave obese”.

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Other proposals to tackle the growing obesity epidemic include asking every primary school to introduce schemes to boost children’s activity, such as the Daily Mile. Children could also be banned from buying sugary energy drinks, which can contain as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, and unhealthy foods could be removed from checkouts and two-for-one deals.

The proposals form part of the government's updated Childhood Obesity Plan, “which was widely criticised for being too weak when it was launched two years ago” says the BBC.

On its current trajectory, three-quarters of men and two-thirds of women will be overweight by 2030.

It has led to warnings that obesity has become “the new smoking” in terms of the health risks being posed to the population, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Almost a tenth of the health service budget is now taken up treating diabetes, with the majority of cases fuelled by excess weight.

However, the new policy has not been welcomed by everyone.

Food writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe accused the government of not learning from GPs, health advisors and food bank organisers who know the problems faced by low income families.

"This anti-obesity policy basically penalises people for being poor and chubby," she told Sky News.

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Claire Shaw suggested the government should use the money generated by the sugar tax to subsidise fruit.

“[Fruit] is always expensive to buy and is much better for the children” she said. “Why is it cheaper to buy a multipack of Mars bars than it is to buy a punnet of grapes or strawberries?”

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