Andy Burnham, shadow health secretary, has asked the government to consider introducing legal limits on such ingredients, instead of the current voluntary agreements used by the food industry, to tackle ongoing issues of child obesity in Britain.
He said: “The government has failed to come up with a convincing plan to tackle this challenge. If we fail to act on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s warning we are storing up huge problems for the country and the NHS in the long-term. That is why Labour is calling for new thinking and why we’re initiating today’s consultation.”
Labour has published a Policy Review document entitled ‘Children, food and obesity’, which looks at tackling child obesity to improve the nation’s health, including the idea to implement a new maximum permitted levels of fat, sugar and salt in food aimed at children.
The document comes as new research, published in recent weeks by the OECD, shows that in the UK 26.6% of girls and 22.7% of boys are considered overweight or obese.
The Department of Health in England has said its Responsibility Deal with food companies shows the voluntary approach can be successful.
Labour’s call to action has come at the same time as the government has launched its Be Food Smart campaign, aiming to expose the hidden levels of sugar, salt and fat in food.
The scheme will include a collaboration between television network ITV, food manufacturers and advertising from Change4Life, which will host the first health-focused advertising break takeover, starting tonight (7 January).
It will highlight specific facts, such as a large pizza containing more than a wine glass of fat, to help make consumers more aware of what is in their food.
The television advertising break campaign will also feature food businesses Asda and The Co-operative Food, and will include a range of healthy eating tools and information, from recipes to money-off vouchers.
Anna Soubry, public health minister, who launched the campaign, said: “Making healthier, balanced meals on a budget can be a challenge for families. This new Change4Life campaign offers families free healthy recipes and money off those much-needed cupboard essentials to encourage everyone to try healthy alternatives.
“Thanks to the continuing success of Change4Life, a million mums have changed their behaviour. But England has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe, with over 60% of adults and a third of 10- and 11-year-olds overweight or obese.
“We want to make it easy for everyone to keep track of what they eat and make healthier choices. That is why we are also developing a simple and clear system for front-of-pack labelling that everyone can use.”
The campaign will also see the launch of a new smartphone and tablet application, featuring a meal mixer and a shopping list function to help people make healthy choices in the supermarket.