Childhood Obesity Sparks Government Controversy in UK

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the UK, where government statistics indicate that 31% of children ages 10 -11 in England are overweight or obese. Researchers predict that 90% will be overweight or obese by 2050. Now, a controversial government initiative aims to curb the trend.

obese boy_jpgChildhood obesity is a serious problem for everyone. Take the UK for example: Government statistics say that around 31% of children ages 10 -11 in England are overweight or obese, and predict that 90% of today’s schoolchildren in the UK will be overweight or obese by 2050. The estimated price tag is 50 billion pounds.

Dame Deirdre Hutton, the soon-to-be-ex-chairman of the UK’s Food Standards Agency wants to nip the trend in the bud, and thinks she has an answer: Government control of grocery stores. According to Dame Deirdre, grocery stores in the UK should stop selling high-calorie foods – and Her Majesty’s Government has the right to exert pressure on grocers to make sure they comply.

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The program she’s advocating makes use of so-called traffic light labels – Government-suggested labels on the front of food packaging to identify unhealthy food items. These labels contain nutritional information about the food inside, guidance on the maximum recommended daily consumption, and a “red alert” marking if the exceeds the Government’s recommended daily levels of salt, sugar and fats.

Not all food sold in the UK carries these labels. Food manufacturers like Nestle and Danone have protested against the label system, arguing that food choices are part of each shopper’s private business.

Dame Deirdre points out that the UK’s big food retailers already use the system and that those who refuse to go along with it will be pushed hard by the Food Standards Agency to ensure compliance Government enforcement officers have the power to make spot checks of food manufacturers and retailers to make certain everyone’s going along with the plan, handing out stiff fines and legal penalties to non-conformers.

While critics of the labeling plan see it as an intolerable intrusion into the private lives of UK citizens, its backers argue that the treatment of obesity costs the UK’s National Health System a lot of money – taxpayer money – and that the government has the right to take action to control the obesity rate and with it the cost of treating people with obesity.

As Congress moves to enact some form of government-controlled health care here in the United States, the issue of government involvement in private behavior – such as buying a bag of potato chips – in the name of public health has come to the forefront of political discussion.

As always, we’ll keep an eye on the situation as it develops and pass the latest news on to you.

One Response

  1. Owen Thompson

    Remarks by Nestle and Danone are no longer a persons private affair but a serious public issue that must be tackled by all responsible individuals and parents. Parents must encourage their children to be more active. Stop buying their children sedentary games, and encourage their children to eat more fruit and vegetables. Boycott fast food restaurants and take-a-ways and listen to the warnings. I was horrified to hear a doctor say that he would not see it as a problem until a patients BMI was 30 or above.
    For this I blame health ministers, the medical profession and other bodies that can prevent this epidemic for not issuing serious warnings as they do with the dangers of smoking, alcohol and drugs i.e heavy advertising and public awareness.

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