As another campaign launches to tackle rising obesity levels in the UK, The Food and Drink Federation tells Channel 4 News the industry has a long track record of “doing the right thing”.
The Academy of Royal Medical Colleges (AoMRC) is beginning a three-month evidence-gathering inquiry to look for research and strategies that work in preventing or reducing obesity.
The campaign will start by reviewing the case for fat taxes, promoting exercise, restricting food advertising and other measures.
It has criticised sponsorship of the Olympics by fast food firms as sending “the wrong message”.
The inquiry will look at action that can be taken by individuals, including diet, exercise and parenting, as well as the impact of advertising, food labelling and sponsorship.
It will also examine clinical interventions, financial measures such as taxation and minimum pricing and education.
The campaign will be chaired by Professor Terence Stephenson, vice-chairman of the AoMRC and president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health: “Our starting point is the collective desire to ensure the healthcare profession is doing all it can to detect, treat, manage – and ultimately prevent – obesity.
“It is unprecedented that the medical royal colleges and faculties have come together on such a high-profile public health issue. But we’ve done so because we recognise the huge crisis waiting to happen and believe that current strategies to reduce obesity are failing to have a significant impact.”
Recommendations could target food companies who sponsor major sporting events – such as the Olympics – and fast food outlets which operate close to schools.
Prof Stephenson said allowing companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds to sponsor the London 2012 Olympics “sends the wrong message.”
“They clearly wouldn’t be spending the money if they didn’t benefit from being associated with successful athletes,” he said.
But the Food and Drink Federation told Channel 4 News the industry has a “long track record” of doing the right thing when it comes to obesity.
Director of Communications Terry Jones said it was “regrettable” that the Academy had not recognised what had been done in the UK to date.
He added: “Since 2004 The Food and Drink Federation’s members have had a manifesto to really look to improve public health … either reformulating products, developing healthier products and developing clear labels.”
A quarter of women (24 per cent) and just over a fifth of men (22 per cent) in the UK are now classed as obese, giving Britain the highest rate of obesity in Europe.
One in three children are overweight or obese by the age of nine.