Scottish obesity plan to crack down on junk food advertising and cut price deals

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Cut price deals on junk food in supermarkets and stores could be barred as part of a new action plan from the Scottish Government to tackle the nation’s obesity problem.

Ministers also want to see a ban on radio and TV adverts for unhealthy foods before the 9pm watershed and will look to bring in portion limits and calorie caps on food bought in restaurants and takeaways.

Television chef Jamie Oliver has praised the Scottish Government for its “bold, brave and trailblazing move to transform our kids’ diets” and urged Westminster to follow suit.

Oliver said: ” Holyrood has outlined plans for a multi-pronged obesity strategy, including new rules around the marketing and advertising of unhealthy food. This is an amazing step towards making sure the healthiest choice is the easiest choice – for everyone.

“Today, Scotland has set an example to the rest of the world. It has picked up the baton that Westminster dropped last year. So, now the ball is back in the UK Government’s court. We need to ensure everyone in Britain has a chance to raise their children in a healthy environment.

“Let’s give the Scottish Government the support and momentum it needs to get these plans over the line .”

He spoke out after Scottish Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell launched a new a consultation on improving diet, exercise and weight.

Figures from 2016 showed that t wo-thirds (65%) of adults in Scotland were overweight, including 29% who were obese – statistics which are ” largely unchanged since 2008″, the Government said.

The consultation makes clear Scottish ministers are ” minded to act to restrict price promotion on food and drink products which are high in fat, salt and sugar” such as multi-buy deals and temporary price promotions.

As TV and radio advertising is reserved, the Scottish Government pledged to ” strongly press” Westminster to ban broadcast advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar before the 9pm watershed – with ministers in Edinburgh saying if the UK Government does not act it will demand these powers be devolved to Holyrood.

Ms Campbell said they would also consider if restrictions are needed over the advertising of such products in areas around schools and children’s visitor attractions, as well as on buses and trains.

The Scottish Government will also spend more than £40 million on “weight management interventions” for almost 100,000 people who have or are at risk of type 2 diabetes.

Meanwhile, a specific strategy for restaurants and takeaways will be published by summer 2018 and include “action on calorie labelling, portion size and calorie cap options, promotions and marketing”.

There will be funding of £200,000 over the next three year to help small and medium sized food businesses make healthier products, while health visitors will also work with families to promote health eating.

Ms Campbell said: ” Obesity significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cancer cardiovascular disease and depression.

“Simply put, it’s harming the people of Scotland. It also puts pressure on the NHS, other public services and our economy.

“That is why we need commitment and action from everyone across all sectors and at all levels including government, citizens, the public sector and businesses right across the country.”

She added: ” We are putting forward a package of bold measures designed to help people make healthier choices, empower personal change and show real leadership. Now we need people who live, work and consume food and drink in Scotland to tell us what they think.

“As with our ground-breaking strategies on alcohol and tobacco, this is the start of a progressive plan of action, learning from our experience in Scotland and further afield, that will make a real, lasting difference to the country’s health.”

The consultation will run until January 31 with Ms Campbell adding: ” I am clear that improving the food environment is the single biggest change we need to see in Scotland.

“The reality is that many of us find it challenging to make health choices in an environment where food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar is cheap, widely available and heavily promoted.”

Labour’s Colin Smyth said action was “overdue” but welcomed the plan adding : “The obesity crisis is the single biggest public health challenge facing Scotland today and one that sadly too often impacts on our most deprived communities .

“Two-thirds of adults overweight, over a quarter of children, t he worst rates in the UK and among the worst anywhere in the world.

“It’s clear that the current obesity routemap has not met its milestones and bold, radical action is very much needed.”

He pressed Ms Campbell to commit the consultation would not be used to “water down tough regulation”.

Ms Campbell said there was “no intention” for the government to backtrack on regulation.

Conservative Miles Briggs also welcomed the plan and said action could “not come soon enough”.