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Obesity Problem in UK: ‘We Believe Liability Here is With the Food Industry’ - Nutritionist

CC BY 2.0 / Alan Stanton / UK food market (File photo).
UK food market (File photo). - Sputnik International
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Health campaigners are urging the government to introduce a new “calorie tax” to tackle childhood obesity, diabetes and cancer. According to the campaign group, Action on Sugar and Action on Salt, a levy on companies producing processed food with high levels of fat and sugar would encourage them to create more nutritional snacks.

With more on this story, Sputnik spoke to Holly Gabriel, a Nutritionist from the group Action on Sugar, in this interview.

Sputnik: The groups Action on Sugar and Action on Salt are today urging the government to introduce a new “calorie tax” in an effort to tackle childhood obesity, diabetes and cancer. Firstly can you explain a little bit about this tax and why it’s something that the government should undertake?

Holly: What we've seen with what call it the sugar tax, the soft drinks industry levy which has been in place for around a year now, is that it encourages manufacturers to reformulate the food and drinks to avoid paying a levy. That's meant a huge reduction in sugar consumption across the UK and also raised quite a lot of money which could be used for Children's Health Services. Following on from the successes of that we think the government and the Treasury should really consider using these types of levies across other types of foods, which would encourage companies to reformulate products make them healthier.

Sputnik: It’s certainly true that Britain does have a problem with obesity; according to figures published by the NHS 29% of adults in the UK are obese with 20% of year 6 children also being obese. Is a tax really going to be successful in reducing obesity and what more could be done?

Holly: Yeah, so what we work with our campaign is to improve the environment. With taxes and levies that's one way in which the food industry can be encouraged to reduce the sugar, fat and the calories in products to make it easier for people to make healthy choices. It's really difficult with the amount of marketing and advertising and a lack of really good labelling, especially when we're eating out, that really makes it very difficult to eat healthfully. There are lots of other different leaders we can use to kind of help people.

Sputnik: When see discussions about obesity in the media, everyone seems to have a different idea about the causes of obesity. In your view, where does the burden of responsibility lie? Is it a question of it landing at the feet of consumers, companies and government?

Holly: I think obesity is a really complex area and there's obviously lots of factors that can make people become overweight or obese but one of the really strong areas that we believe there is liability here is with the food industry. We are just completely bombarded now with foods that are unhealthy for us, everything's skewed to the kind of unhealthy food to eat foods that are high in fat, salt, sugar. The food industry is not solely responsible but it's got a huge part to play in the diet and the health of the UK population and I think it's a main area that needs to be worked on. It’s not the complete responsibility, but government and industry have a lot more power to do more to tackle this problem. What we've seen is when there's mandatory measures put in place, whether we send this options industry levy and when we have a salt reduction program which was also mandatory but isn't any more, then real differences can be made. As soon as you take the eye off the ball and you make it voluntary or you don't evaluate the progress of the industry in these things and that's when things get a little bit not as successful as they can be. We just need to keep campaigning and keep asking for more to be done for the government and manufacturers to make a difference.

The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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