The government has again delayed the publication of its childhood obesity strategy, much to the anger of health charities and campaigners.
The strategy, which was originally expected before the end of 2015, will not be published until the summer. The controversial introduction of sugar tax is likely “not in there,” according to a government spokesperson.
The strategy has now been pushed back three times: first to January, then to February or March, now till the summer.
Campaigners concerned about the lack of government measures to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes in children have criticised the delays, with one commentator describing them as “unacceptable.”
The government has ascribed the delays to the complexity of the issue, and the importance of creating the most effective possible strategy. A spokesperson from the Department of Health said: “It is a very complex issue and there is a lot of work going on to get it right. There are a lot of different issues that need considering and we want to make sure it is right when we put it out. David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt have said they want it to be a game-changing moment.”
But Tam Fry, of the Child Growth Foundatio, has described the delays as “unacceptable”:
“This constant delay in publishing the childhood obesity strategy is unforgivable and the statement that they ‘want to get it right’ is the most ridiculous and lame excuse. The Department of Health, and No. 10 who is pulling its strings, have had literally months to get it right and it is a fair bet that its essential elements have been finalised for some time.
“In the words of England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, the current epidemic is a national emergency, which should be tackled by immediate action at Cobra level and not put off at the whim of any politician. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt regards childhood obesity as a great scandal and has promised draconian and robust action to address it. But what have we got? Total inaction.”
The sugar tax
When the strategy is published, it is unlikely that it will include a sugar tax. A spokesperson said: “As far as I’m aware it’s not in there. We as a government are committed to keeping taxes low and not introducing new taxes. I don’t think it will be in there.”
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is among the high-profile advocates of the sugar tax. Ben Reynolds, of the Children’s Food Campaign, which has collaborated with Oliver on pushing for a sugar tax, said: “It would be disappointing if a sugary drinks tax is not included.”
Accepting the possibility that the government may have alternative, equally effective plans, Reynolds said: “We would like to see a timescale and some metrics on how they judge that industry has responded. A vague threat it is nothing without that.”
Alternative sugar-cutting measures might include regulations on sugar, with financial penalty for companies that don’t comply. Several organisations, including Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundatio, have called for a ban on advertising of unhealthy food before the 9pm watershed.
Currently, no such measures exist. The only existing measures for reducing sugar content in food is the “responsibility deal,” which asks food producers to reduce the sugar content in their foods. However, there are no sanctions for those companies who fail to comply, and
studies have found the responsibility deal ineffective.

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