Government criticised for roll back on anti-obesity strategy

UK PM set to lift sugary products bans to aid businesses in cost of living crisis

A member of the Investor Coalition on UK Food Policy has expressed disappointment the UK government is considering rolling back its anti-obesity strategy, calling the plans “misguided and short-term in nature”.

Last week, the Guardian reported new prime minister Liz Truss is set to scrap its entire anti-obesity strategy, which would include lifting bans on sugary products being displayed at checkouts and ‘buy one get one free’ deals, as well as restrictions on advertising certain products on TV before the 9pm watershed being removed.

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A review of the measures has been ordered by the Treasury and a potential rollback is said to be part of Truss’s drive to cut burdens on business and help consumers through the cost of living crisis.

“Using the cost-of-living crisis as an excuse is misguided and short-term in nature, as any inaction will ultimately hit the poorest in society hardest with research showing a clear correlation between poverty and obesity in the UK,” said Sophie Lawrence (pictured left), stewardship and engagement lead at Rathbone Greenbank Investments, which is the lead investor of the Investor Coalition on UK Food Policy.

“Investor engagement with companies has shown that they too are overwhelmingly in support of regulatory measures that bring greater consistency and create a level playing field for the sector.”

She highlighted obesity has become a systemic risk facing the companies in which we invest, across multiple industries, and the combined cost of obesity-related disease to UK businesses is estimated to be £27bn per year. In addition, 63% of years lost to poor health are in the working age population, meaning obesity has a significant impact on productivity and absence rates.

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“Well-designed regulation creates an essential enabling environment for businesses seeking to address this systemic risk and build long-term economic sustainability into their business models,” she added.

“The success of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy is an example of how well-designed regulation can be a win-win-win for consumers, companies and the wider economy. The levy resulted in a significant fall in the levels of sugar in drinks, and has added an estimated £340m to the Treasury each year for investment in children’s health.

“The Investor Coalition on UK Food Policy will be engaging closely with the UK government in the coming days and months to push for the level of ambition to be kept intact and further expanded.”