Sunderland MP joins Jamie Oliver in slamming childhood obesity plans

Sharon Hodgson.

Sharon Hodgson.

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A Wearside MP has slammed the Government’s plans to cut childhood obesity.

Health experts condemned the “watered-down” strategy when it was unveiled this week.

It contains no plans for curbs on junk food advertising, despite repeated calls from health campaigners, instead putting the emphasis on greater physical activity in schools and a voluntary food industry scheme to cut sugar in popular children’s products.

Ministers hope the food industry will cut 20% of sugar from the foods children enjoy such as cereals, yoghurts, sweets, breads and desserts over the next five years, with a 5% cut in the first year.

Also central to the plan is the Government’s sugar tax on soft drinks. The proposed levy on drinks such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Red Bull will come into force from 2018.

The money raised will be put into sport in schools and school breakfast clubs.

Primary schools are being asked to help pupils get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day – 30 minutes through PE and active play and 30 minutes outside school.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food.

She criticised the timing of the policy unveiling, saying: “After many delays and stumbles along the way, the Government has finally published their Childhood Obesity Strategy, sadly at a time when Parliament is not sitting and Members of Parliament are unable to scrutinise the document fully.

“It is clear why this is: the Government have failed to develop a ‘game-changing’ comprehensive strategy that we were all promised would help address the burgeoning crisis of childhood obesity in this country, and instead have received a 13-page plan which could have been a lot stronger and gone further to tackle this issue,” she said.

“It is also welcome to see the Government has finally recognised the inequality seen in their fragmented school system where certain schools must abide by the new School Food Standards, however, they could have gone further with this and ensured that all schools had to adhere to school food standards.

“One significant omission from this plan is the Government’s failure to address the double burden of malnutrition and children’s access to good healthy food in our communities.

“This summer has seen almost daily press reports on holiday hunger and with tens of thousands of children reliant on food banks in the country, Ministers have failed to make any commitments to address child holiday hunger.”