Action is required, but banning public transport snacking is unworkable

The release of former UK Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies’ report on obesity makes a number of notable key findings, including claims relating to the damage that un-checked snacking habits are having on youngsters.

Perhaps most striking of the observations was the fact obesity costs to our health care system had reached a figure put at £60 billion in 2018, demonstrating that appropriate action rather than words needs to be taken.

The professor argued that it’s an issue that is solvable, stating that all children have the right to live healthy active lives. She called on politicians to be bold and take further action to protect and improve our children’s health.

Among the key steps she recommended were reviewing VAT rates to ensure that healthier foods have no VAT added, as well as phasing out marketing and sponsorship deals for so-called unhealthy foods. She also said schools should be doing their bit by ensuring that kids have healthy meals during the week.

These are indeed worthy aims, which industry has been steadily playing its part in through reducing the levels of sugar and calories in ranges of confectionery, baked goods, and the wider food market.

Clearly, there’s a lot more work that can be done in light of recent studies which in fact found that as far as confectionery is concerned, levels of sugar at least, have barely changed in the past few years. Is this necessarily a surprise given that sugar is such a key element of many of our major brands portfolios?

One recommendation from Dame Davies for attempting to ban snacking on public transport seemed far less achievable though – it’s hard to see how this could either be policed or whether it is something that’s really deliverable.

These are indeed challenging times for our health system, but measures taken by major groups such as Mondelez, with its ‘Always a Treat campaign’ must surely be the way forward rather than any further heavy-handed policing of consumers’ eating habits.


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