The Government has pledged £75m on an advertising campaign as part of a £372m strategy aimed at beating the obesity “time bomb”. The marketing drive will focus on helping parents to make changes to their children’s diet and activity levels.
The strategy was announced before Parliament by Health Secretary Alan Johnson and Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. The Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives report calls for £75m to be spent to 2011 on an integrated marketing programme. The Government expects commercial partners to contribute.
It reads: “This will not be a Government campaign telling people how to raise their children; rather, a Government-encouraged movement, to which everyone… can belong and contribute.”
The primary emphasis will be on preventative measures and establishing better eating habits and patterns of activity from early infancy.
The Government has also instructed media regulator Ofcom to bring forward its review of the restrictions already introduced on advertising unhealthy foods to children. It will work with the food and drink industry to produce a Healthy Food Code of Good Practice, including proposals to develop a single approach to food labelling.
The strategy also includes plans to halt the growth of fast-food outlets near schools as well as the creation of “healthy” towns and revamping the NHS Choices website to include more diet and exercise advice.
Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson says “balanced” marketing, promotion of food to children and clear, consistent food labelling are key components, alongside healthy eating and physical activity in “beating the obesity time bomb”.
Already, retailers including Asda have backed the call for a consistent approach to nutritional labelling. In July 2007, Asda launched a dual labelling system, combining the benefits of ‘traffic lights’ with GDAs, over and above the Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) recommendations. The supermarket also says it has become the first retailer to hit the FSA’s salt reduction targets from own-brand products two years ahead of a 2010 deadline.