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BMA Scotland: Ministers must go further on junk food

Dr Peter Bennie said ‘substantive action’ was needed to address obesity which has remained largely unchanged in Scotland since 2008.

Doctors have urged the Scottish Government to go further in a crack down on junk food promotions.

The British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland warned tougher action was needed to tackle the problem of obesity.

Ministers are currently consulting on proposed measures to restrict the promotion and advertising of food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt.

The most recent Scottish Health Survey found 65% of adults in Scotland were overweight or obese, a figure largely unchanged since 2008.

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Obesity levels have remained largely unchanged in Scotland since 2008 (Clara Molden/PA)

BMA Scotland said the plan was a good starting point but needed to be strengthened and backed by regulation.

The organisation is calling for extra restrictions on sales promotions that encourage the buying of junk food and an end to the sponsorship and marketing of unhealthy products at events aimed at children or in schools.

Doctors’ leaders want calorie information for food bought in shops and restaurants to be a requirement, and changes to planning policy to cut the number of fast-food outlets around schools.

Other proposals include providing a free portion of fruit or veg every day to primary school pupils and the setting up of specialist weight management units.

BMA Scotland chair Dr Peter Bennie said:  “Almost every doctor working in the NHS today will be dealing with patients who are overweight or obese and who will often have additional health needs as a result.

“The additional demands on the NHS that this creates come at a time when the health service is already stretched like never before.

“We need substantive action to change people’s behaviour and address the problems caused by unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.”

He added: “The proposals that the Scottish Government has put forward are a good starting point, but the scale of the challenges posed by overweight and obesity means that we need to go further.

“Voluntary approaches to encourage retailers and producers to change have failed to deliver, so regulation is required.

“Prevention is much better than cure and the recommendations that we have put forward can help to prevent more people from becoming overweight or obese.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have put forward a package of bold measures designed to help people make healthier choices, empower personal change and show real leadership.

“We are committing £42m over 5 years on weight management services for those with or at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

“We fully appreciate all comments received to our consultation and will carefully consider any suggestions made.”

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