With the election fast approaching Living Loud presents our manifesto to tackle obesity. It’s bold, it's challenging, it’s probably overly ambitious, but if we want to tackle the obesity crisis.... this is what we need our government to do.
Living Loud calls on our political leaders to empower consumers to make informed choices and to inspire families, schools and the food industry to encourage a healthier diet.
1. Simplify classification of packaged food
We need simplicity in food classification. Until we simplify food classification we will struggle to educate people and to define and enforce rules in taxation, advertising and labelling.
All packaged foods should be classified based on their levels of salt, sugar and hydrogenated fats. If they exceed levels in any one of those categories then they are overall classified at the highest level. All packaged food should be labelled as healthy, normal, unhealthy or extremely unhealthy. This will be technically and politically challenging, and the food lobby will push against it, but it is vital to empower consumers to make simple, informed choice.
2. Protect children from the influence of advertisers
Big packaged food brands are getting their message through to our children. They encourage “pester power” and make healthy eating more challenging for all parents. We need to protect our kids and give the choice about what our kids eat back to their parents.
So we call for:
No advertising unhealthy and extremely unhealthy products before the 9pm watershed on television, radio or online
Websites promoting unhealthy and extremely unhealthy products to place an age gateway on their websites to discourage access by under 16s
Stop the sponsorship and commercially association of unhealthy and extremely unhealthy brands with both professional and grass roots sport. This would, for example, include Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the Olympics and McDonalds programme to supply branded kit to kid’s football teams
Stop the sponsorship, merchandising, licensing and commercially association of unhealthy and extremely unhealthy brands with kid’s entertainment. This would, for example, include McDonald’s happy meal toys, Kellogg’s use of Disney characters on cereal boxes and sampling and experiential marketing at theme parks and other family attractions.
Ban advertising of unhealthy and extremely unhealthy products in areas around schools, play areas, parks and other areas frequented by children
3. Honesty and transparency in food labelling and advertising to return real choice to people
A universal, mandatory, government backed and promoted kite mark to symbolise overall health classification of packaged goods (i.e. healthy, normal, unhealthy and extremely unhealthy) with a minimum size and clear visibility on all packaging and advertising
Standard government health warnings on packaging and advertising for extremely unhealthy products covering at least 20% of the packaging and 20% of the physical space or air time of the advertising
Advertising and packaging standards to discourage misleading health or nutrition benefits in particular banning extremely unhealthy food from claiming any nutritional benefits
Fining advertising or packaging which shows or encourages portion sizes greater than the portion sizes recommended in the nutritional information or which would push the person’s consumption to greater than 50% of the recommended daily intake for the target audience
4. Schools and public services should lead by example rather than be expected to be the guardians of children’s health:
Unhealthy and extremely unhealthy products banned from school lunches and lunch boxes with potential fines for parents
Unhealthy and extremely unhealthy products banned from hospital shops and cafes
Only water and milk permissible in schools
Create a badge of excellence in pupil health for schools to aspire to achieve (i.e such as Investing in People) rather than using pupil health targets and inspections to further demoralise teachers.
5. Increase support for parents of obese children with online and local community based information, inspiration and emotional support groups.
6. Use taxation to encourage healthy eating and finance support programmes
People should be free to consume what they wish, within reasonable standards of food safety, but we recognise that people who choose to eat badly put an unfair cost burden on society for their likely health and care needs. Therefore, much like cigarettes, it is only fair that these people contribute more through direct taxation on these products.
An increased levy on all extremely unhealthy products
VAT exemption on healthy products such as low sugar snacks
These levy funds should be channelled into a non-government grant giving organisation (such as the National Lottery) to disperse to grass roots and community action groups. These underfunded groups are financially very efficient. Financial support will mobilise them further, encourage greater community support and uptake. These fund should be geared to encourage innovation and to quickly expand the organisations and ideas which prove successful. This will be highly efficient and more sensitive to local and cultural needs of communities than central public sector initiatives.
Our core themes are to empower consumers with informed and free choice, to encourage the food industry to reformulate, and to support community initiatives to better educate, inspire and support people