UK anti-obesity ad campaign swings into action

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food industry Nutrition

The UK’s nationwide New Year’s Resolution, to curb obesity, swung into action over the weekend; the health minister has hinted at drastic actions for the food industry if it proves unsuccessful, say reports.

The Change4Life campaign was announced in November, and is intended to promote healthy eating patterns amongst UK citizens and encourage exercise in order to stem the country’s spiralling obesity epidemic.

The first TV advert for the campaign, produced by Ardman Productions, the maker of the characters Wallace & Grommit, aired on national TV on Saturday.

Meanwhile, health minister Ben Bradshaw has said that the government would force food companies to play a part in changing eating habits, according to national newspapers including The Telegraph – and this could include limits on fat and sugar contend.

"We have already made progress on things like labelling and fat and salt content working with the industry. But ... if this three-year campaign does not succeed, we don't rule out regulating in future,"​ Bradshaw is quoted as saying.

The food industry greatly prefers self-regulation to the heavy hand of laws imposed from above, and has been at pains to communicate the efforts that have been made towards reformulating foods along healthier lines.

When the Change4Life campaign was announced in November, a spokesperson for the Food and Drink Federation told that the industry body was talking to the Department of Health about ways to get members directly involved.

“The FDF considers the work that its members have been doing in areas such as salt reformulation, labelling and workplace wellbeing as being potentially relevant to the campaign.”

However lowering levels of fat and sugar in products is not a straightforward process. It involves considerable technical work to ensure that foods are still acceptable to consumers, and are safe.

The Food Standards Agency has also adopted a collaborative approach to working with the food industry on healthier products, in particular in relation to salt and saturated fat.

Obesity is a growing concern in the UK, with 67 per cent of men and 56 per cent of women in 2006 classified as obese or overweight. Almost 30 per cent of children under the age of 16 are obese or overweight.

However the UK government has recognised that food is not the only factor influencing obesity rates. Last January, when it pledged £372m for the cause, it outlined a range of measures including better education and stimulating more physical activity.

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