I understand the concerns about obesity, particularly among children, and its impact on long term health. With 1 in 3 children obese by Year 6 it is vital to tackle this pressing health concern, so I am glad that a number of steps to tackle this problem.
In 2018, a Soft Drinks Industry Levy was introduced, following a two-year transition period which gave producers the option to reduce the sugar in their drinks in order to avoid this new taxation. I am pleased that this has already yielded results, with sugar levels per 100ml falling by 11 per cent between 2015 and 2017 across those products which were to be subject to the levy. The levy is expected to accrue £485 million in additional revenue between now and 2020, which is being invested in pupil health schemes. These schemes include doubling funding for the Primary Physical Education and Sport Premium and £26 million to improve breakfast club provision across more than 1,700 schools.
The NHS Long Term Plan seeks to promote a vision that prevention is better than cure. As part of it, there is a commitment to halve childhood obesity and significantly reduce the gap in obesity between children from the most and least deprived areas by 2030. Obesity and poor diet are linked with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and increased risk of respiratory, musculoskeletal and liver diseases. The LTP also announces the doubling of the NHS Diabetes Prevention programme over the next five years including a new digital option to widen patient choice and target inequality. Doctors have existing contacts with patients who are at risk from obesity and related conditions, and the shifting focus towards prevention enables newly established Primary Care Networks to offer more support to targeted patients.
In March 2019 a public consultation was launched about further restrictions on advertising for food high in fat, sugar and salt. Since restrictions were introduced a decade ago, exposure has been reduced, but more can be done to target foods that contribute most to children's intake of calories. These proposals would introduce a 9pm watershed for advertising these products.
The UK already has some of the toughest advertising restrictions in the world, but it is only right that the Government consults on further action on TV and online advertising for products that are high in fat, salt or sugar as part of the approach to tackling childhood obesity.