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Childhood obesity strategy delayed until summer

Published 26/02/2016

Campaigners have called for sugar to be taken out of food and drinks as part of the strategy
Campaigners have called for sugar to be taken out of food and drinks as part of the strategy

The Government's strategy for tacking childhood obesity in England will be delayed until the summer, the Department of Health has said.

The Government insisted there is still more work to do despite suggestions that Prime Minister David Cameron may have delayed publication as he is so busy with the EU referendum.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Health said: "We are now confirming that the childhood obesity strategy will be published in summer.

"The strategy will be a key step forward in helping our children live healthier lives, but there is still work to be done to get it right."

The strategy is eagerly awaited by campaigners and health charities, many of whom have campaigned for a tax to be introduced on sugary drinks.

Others want to see an end to buy-one-get-one-free promotions and a ban on junk food advertising before the watershed.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK's director of prevention, said: "David Cameron has called children's obesity a crisis and yet the Government has failed the next generation by stalling on one of its own health priorities.

"While the Government delays, more children will become obese. Our survey shows people want the Government to act to fight children's obesity - eight out of 10 think it's a problem.

"To help prevent thousands of cancer cases we want a ban on junk food ads during family viewing times, a sugary drinks tax and more sugar taken out of food.

"The future health of our children depends on strong action right now. Every day counts."

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: "This constant delay in publishing the childhood obesity strategy is unforgivable and the Department of Health's statement that they 'want to get it right' is the most ridiculous and lame excuse.

"The Department, and Number 10 who is pulling its strings, have had literally months to get it right and it is a fair bet that its essential elements have been finalised for some time.

"The vague promise of a 'summer' publication doesn't bear scrutiny either.

"Publishing the strategy will depend on the fallout of the (EU) referendum. It is a fair bet that if the result is not be what the Government wants, it will prompt a further delay.

"Not to take action now is again proof that the health of our children is of scant importance in Whitehall and millions of them will suffer because of it."

Professor Russell Viner, officer for health promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "With every day that passes, more children are at risk of developing serious conditions associated with obesity.

"These include Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma.

"So, yet another delay in the publication of Government's childhood obesity strategy gives great cause for concern.

"We call on Government to give a definitive date, and urge them to publish their strategy sooner rather than later; before more children fall foul of this terrible condition."

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health added its voice to growing concern that a sugar tax may not feature in the strategy.

The Department of Health refused to be drawn on whether a sugar tax would be included.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the college, said: "Childhood obesity is a timebomb on which the clock is ticking, set to wreck the future health of our children and the sustainability of our NHS.

"There can be no excuse for delay or prevarication when we know - and the Government knows - what must be done, especially if those delays are for political reasons.

"It is hugely frustrating that the Government seemingly remains deaf to the overwhelming weight of expert and public opinion behind the introduction of a sugary drinks tax, especially in light of recent evidence from Cancer Research UK suggesting this could reduce obesity rates by 5% in 10 years.

"While not a silver bullet, this could be a flagship measure which would strongly signal the Government's seriousness about tackling this problem - as it is, that seriousness remains in doubt."

"If there is no sugar tax, then the Government must ensure it uses other levers to spur food and drink manufacturers to reformulate their products and improve their nutritional value, including through much tougher advertising regulation and a crackdown on multi-buys and price promotions for junk food."

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