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Childhood Obesity

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 13 July 2021

We are committed to halving childhood obesity in England by 2030, and the 2020 strategy takes decisive action to help everybody to achieve and maintain that healthier weight. We have five trailblazer sites working to create a healthy environment for our children. We have laid regulations for out-of-home calorie labelling. We have put £100 million into funding for adult and child weight management, and announced the introduction of some of the toughest advertising restrictions—both on TV and online—regarding children’s exposure to high fat, salt and sugar products. This is about the cumulative effect of several policies.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning that wide range of measures. May I also encourage her to work closely with colleagues at the Department for Education and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on an expanded children’s sports and activity plan, both in and out of school, to try to make 60 minutes a day as much a norm as five-a-day fruit and vegetables by bringing in the power of sports clubs and the governing bodies, and finally getting more school facilities available for out-of-hours use?

My right hon. Friend’s question is music to my ears. He will be pleased to hear that, last week, along with Ministers from DCMS and the DFE, I was in front of the Lords National Plan for Sport and Recreation Committee talking about doing just that—about how we can build on the DFE’s £10.1 million contribution, so that we can unlock the 40% of facilities that lie on school estates and help to get children active for 60 minutes a day. We will be publishing our cross-departmental update to the school sport and activity action plan later this year.

Ultra-processed food is basically high in fat, high in salt and high in sugar, and it is highly addictive. I believe that it plays a significant part in the growing crisis that is obesity. I genuinely believe that it is not food in itself, when one considers all the flavourings and artificial colourings that have to go into it to make it taste like food in the first instance. Does my hon. Friend agree that the food industry needs to play its part in tackling the obesity crisis, and not contribute to it?

I do. This is about helping people and caring for people. We know the detrimental effect obesity has on all stages of our lives. It costs personally, in productivity terms, as well as the NHS, being the precursor to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, musculoskeletal conditions and so on. We cannot afford for the country not to tackle this issue. I am encouraged, but want to see business go faster in the reformulation ambition to reduce the salt, sugar and fat in these products.