It seems like the restrictions to be imposed on the food industry to curb the marketing of junk food, which could lead to child obesity, has hit a stumbling block. According to reports, ministers who were expected to propose a new law to fight against child obesity, have allegedly succumbed to pressure from the industry.
Lobbying by companies has apparently made authorities omit the mention of the ban on ads of unhealthy food before the 9pm watershed on TV. The Times has accessed the leaked draft of the proposal which also dropped the idea of banning the placement of unhealthy food items near checkout counters in all shops.
The new plan was due to be published next week and the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who has retained his position, is reported to be struggling to get all his new colleagues in the cabinet to be on the same page and turn the proposal into a law. The final document is expected after holding a discussion with cultural and business ministers, along with the Downing Street.
The charities in the UK have already warned of the increase in obesity rates in the country and its related health issues. A Cancer Research UK report called for banning fast food commercials as they found it to be tempting for children, making them crave unhealthy foodstuff.
The newspaper reported that the documents showed action to stem obesity epidemic has lost its priority as the senior officials are distracted by the EU referendum. Besides, the ministers have given into the lobbying from the food companies, inviting criticisms from the health experts.
According to the Public Health England, one-third of children in the country are already obese by the time they leave primary school, and over a fifth of children aged four and five were overweight or obese. The health experts have also warned of exercising strict measures to prevent children from suffering any lifetime illness caused by being too fat. The organisation had also advocated for restricting fast food advertising on television.
The Conservative party had vouched to bring stringent plans to prevent child obesity in its manifesto last year. But the health department is reportedly hoping to push for the plan in the new cabinet and to strengthen it even at the cost of delaying it until after the summer.
The latest draft states to "put in place additional targeted and proportionate measure to further reduce families' exposure to adverts for unhealthy foods." It said the ministers would soon look for options to decide.
Graham MacGregor, director for Action on Sugar told The Times: "It's a pathetic plan and it won't have any effect on childhood obesity. Last year it was a really good plan but it's been gradually eroded. Theresa May has got to go back and revise this completely."
The previous drafts called for the food companies to come up with a plan in six months time to reduce overall sugar quantity in its products, which are also consumed by children, by 20% in five years.
Neena Modi from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has urges Hunt to "put the teeth back" in the plans.