Stuffing Chips - © Michael Moss - Salt Sugar Fat Book

UK Government: Putting Its Power Where Its Mouth Is

The British government has announced it will enforce new legislation starting in 2022 that will end now-common retailing practices that promote unhealthy consumption and buying habits surrounding unhealthy foods. It’s all part of an ongoing campaign to improve the health of flabby Brits…

Fat Parent Fat kid - © Frank Siteman - Science FactionFat kids lead to fat adults – and not just in the U.K.

Obesity and poor nutrition have long been topics of grave discussions in the UK, where an estimated two-thirds of adults are overweight and one in three children leaving primary school are overweight or obese.

An ongoing initiative

UK officials have been studying the nation’s obesity problem for several years, since a series of learned studies revealed that the country’s health care system was stressing almost to the breaking point trying to keep up with the large and growing cost of treating overweight and obese people and the serious – often deadly – associated diseases and chronic conditions they suffer from, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and various metabolic disorders.

The prescription researchers and officials came up with a campaign to promote safe, healthy eating, and discourage the over-consumption of unhealthy ‘junk’ foods, which were out of control. The worst problems were identified among children, who were emerging into young adulthood in not only overweight but obese condition. Doctors stressed that obese kids tend to remain obese obese adults throughout their lives costing the UK health care system billions of pounds each year.

Other measures have been instituted and more proposed to try to convince adults to slim down and improve their lives. Even though it’s been shown over and over again that healthier adults lead longer, happier, more-active and overall healthier lives, it’s proven a hard sell. You can lead a pig to healthy food, but you can’t make it eat. Which means, it’s hard to make folks overcome their natural cultural and brain-wired proclivities to prefer sugary, fatty and salty foods.

Slow but steady wins the race

Given the overall situation, efforts to change kids’ unhealthy eating habits – or, better yet, keep children from acquiring them in the first place – the UK federal government has been quietly bringing in programs over the past few years to encourage healthier eating in the schools and discourage the buying and consumption of Junk foods. But their authority doesn’t extend directly into homes.

So the most recent attempts to control Junk food sales naturally remain in the realm of retailing and advertising promotions.

Regulators first banned promoting Junk food aimed at kids, then talked about banning all Junk food advertising online until after 9:00 p.m. Other measures, including banning all BOGO (Buy One, Get One free) promotions on Junk food, were discussed over this past summer. Now, a much more comprehesnsive slate of bans and restrictions has been announced

An ambitious effort

“We are restricting promotions and introducing a range of measures to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice. Creating an environment which helps everyone eat healthier foods more regularly is crucial to improving the health of the nation,” Public Health Minister Jo Churchill announced.

Among the new measures:

  • A BOGO promotions for food high in fat, sugar or salt, and free refills of sugary soft drinks in restaurants
  • Restricting where in a store promotions on such products can be advertised.
  • Unhealthy promotions will not be allowed, period, at checkouts, shop entrances or at the ends of aisles.

We assume that, in spite of aggressive lobbying campaigns or restrictions by Junk food industry corporations, such measures introduced last year and the year before (covering sugary drinks), have been successful enough that similar anti-Junk food measures will continue to be phased in in the UK, in the future.

And, given that moves against the promotion of sugary drinks in certain North American jurisdictions have proven at least marginally successful, we can expect similar moves against Junk food in general, down the road.

How do you feel about that?

~ Maggie J.