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Eating on public transport should ‘be banned’ says chief medical officer

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 14: People gather on London's tube to protest against the Facebook group 'Women Eating on the Tube' where people post pictures of randomly women eating on London's public transport networks without their knowledge in London, England on April 14, 2014. Protesters acted by having a lunch party on London's busy Circle line in London. (Photo by Tolga Akmen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Dame Sally’s report said children are ‘constantly exposed to advertising for unhealthy food and drink’ (Picture: Tolga Akmen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The government will fail to meet its target of halving childhood obesity unless eating on public transport is banned and the sugar tax is extended, a major new report warns.

Professor Dame Sally Davies used her final report to demand tougher action from ministers, including tighter regulation of food companies seeking to manipulate youngsters.

She called for the successful sugar tax to be expanded to cover milk drinks laden with added sugar, such as milkshakes, and for MPs to consider plain packaging for unhealthy food.

The outgoing chief medical officer for England also said more needs to be done to stop children being ‘dazzled’ by junk food companies, adding that kids are ‘drowning in a flood of unhealthy food and drink options’.

Her report puts her at odds with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who cautioned against ‘sin taxes’ and ‘the continuing creep of the nanny state’.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 14: People gather on London's tube to protest against the Facebook group 'Women Eating on the Tube' where people post pictures of randomly women eating on London's public transport networks without their knowledge in London, England on April 14, 2014. Protesters acted by having a lunch party on London's busy Circle line in London. (Photo by Tolga Akmen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

More than £300 million was spent on advertising soft drinks in 2017 compared with £16 million on fruit and vegetables (Picture: Tolga Akmen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In her review, Dame Sally said ‘excess weight has slowly crept up on us all and is now often accepted as normal’.

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More than one million children are now clinically obese, with some suffering Type 2 diabetes, asthma and musculoskeletal pain, as well as mental health problems, such as depression, she said.

As many as 120,000 cases of asthma in children may be caused by obesity, her report added, while as many as 650,000 are thought to have fatty liver disease caused by being overweight.

Increasing portion sizes and the ready availability of junk food means children now, on average, consume three unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, containing seven teaspoons of sugar.

In her review, Dame Sally said ‘excess weight has slowly crept up on us all and is now often accepted as normal’.

More than one million children are now clinically obese, with some suffering Type 2 diabetes, asthma and musculoskeletal pain, as well as mental health problems, such as depression, she said.

As many as 120,000 cases of asthma in children may be caused by obesity, her report added, while as many as 650,000 are thought to have fatty liver disease caused by being overweight.

Increasing portion sizes and the ready availability of junk food means children now, on average, consume three unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, containing seven teaspoons of sugar.

In 2017, more than £300 million was spent on advertising soft drinks, sweet and sweet and savoury snacks, compared with £16 million spent on advertising fruit and vegetables, the report said.

‘Adverts are everywhere, from bus stops to our mobile phones. Children are explicitly targeted with sophisticated techniques,’ it went on.



What are some of Dame Sally’s bold recommendations?

  • Ban eating and drinking on public transport in a bid to curb children snacking.
  • Extend the sugar tax to include sweetened milk-based drinks with added sugar.
  • Ensure all publicly-funded sporting venues and major sporting events only advertise and sell low- calorie, low-fat and low-salt and/or sugar products.
  • Tax food firms that fail to reduce sugar, fat and salt in their products quickly enough, and consider plain packaging (as for tobacco) for junk food.
  • Impose a cap on the number of calories per serving at food outlets.
  • Make free drinking water available in takeaways, food shops and restaurants.
  • Phase out all marketing, advertising and sponsorship of less healthy food and drink products across all media, including online, at any major public venue or public-funded event, and on any public-sector-owned advertising site.
  • Curb car speed limits near schools and homes to help improve air quality and encourage children to walk or cycle.
  • Strengthen regulation of marketing of follow-on formula milk and improve promotion of breastfeeding, which is known to help reduce the risk of obesity.
  • Introduce mandatory standards for the nutritional content of foods for children under the age of two.

Dame Sally said weight-loss programmes and treatment were all being undermined by environments that promote unhealthy food.

She added: ‘Politicians, I call on all of you across the political spectrum to come together and take action. The health of our children is in your hands.’

The report, which was commissioned by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, also says 90,500 children may be eligible for weight-loss surgery yet only around 10 have it each year.



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