‘We must stop poisoning our children with junk food,’ say Sunderland’s leaders

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RESTRICTIONS should be put in place to stop the “poisoning” of young people with sugar-laden junk food, say councillors.

Cabinet members at Sunderland City Council agreed an action plan to tackle the problem of childhood obesity after hearing evidence from the children’s services scrutiny panel.

A report presented to members with figures for the last two years showed 10 per cent of reception-age children are obese, with local variations of 13 to 17 per cent in some areas.

By Year 6, the figure is 21 per cent average, with some areas spiking at 26 to 34 per cent.

Council leader Paul Watson criticised the advertising of unhealthy foods to youngsters.

“It’s not just about lifestyle,” he said. “It’s about regulation. We have restrictions on things that are completely innocuous, while we are letting other things that are poisoning our children go on.”

The council’s portfolio holder for children and young people, Pat Smith, said that while it needed to be a council-wide approach, she welcomed the report and accompanying action plan.

“It is nice that there is a real and positive contribution that our service can make to child obesity,” she said.

“This is particularly the case for our children’s centres, promoting breast feeding and, throughout life for the whole family, promotion of healthy eating and improving cooking skills.”

Children’s centres in the city now hold ‘stay and bake’ courses, teaching young mums to cook.

“They take into account what people can do, even if they don’t have a lot of money,” she added.

Some schools have already banned unhealthy packed lunches, Coun Smith said, while some operate lockdowns, where pupils must stay in school at break-times.