Childhood obesity: follow-up Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1.We welcome the measures the Government has included in the childhood obesity plan, but are extremely disappointed that several key areas for action that could have made the strategy more effective were removed. Vague statements about looking “to further levers” if the current plan does not work are not adequate to the seriousness and urgency of this major public health challenge. We call on the Government to set clear goals for reducing overall levels of childhood obesity as well as goals for reducing the unacceptable and widening levels of inequality. (Paragraph 14)

The soft drinks industry levy

2.We commend the Government for introducing a levy on the manufacturers of sugary drinks and welcome the progress already being made in reformulation as a result. We recommend that the Government’s monitoring of the effectiveness of the levy should include monitoring of whether the levy is being passed on to include a price differential between high- and low- or no-sugar drinks at the point of sale. Failure to do so would leave consumers of sugar-free products subsidising higher sugar drinks and would also reduce the effectiveness of the levy in helping to change choices. We recommend that the Government should develop and if necessary implement measures to ensure that that differential is clear in the price paid by consumers. (Paragraph 29)

3.We urge the Government to extend the soft drinks industry levy to milk-based drinks which have extra sugar added. (Paragraph 32)

Use of the revenue from the levy

4.We commend the Government for responding positively to our recommendation (and that of others who called for a sugar tax) that the proceeds of the soft drinks industry levy should be directed towards measures to improve children’s health. It is particularly welcome that some of the proceeds will be directed to breakfast clubs, whose greatest benefit is to children from lower income families. We intend to follow up how the income from the levy is distributed in order to help reduce the inequalities arising from childhood obesity. (Paragraph 38)


5.We urge the Government to set out the policy proposals which it is prepared to implement if the voluntary reformulation programme does not go as far or as fast as necessary to tackle childhood obesity. (Paragraph 43)

6.We encourage Public Health England to go further with the introduction of means to measure progress in reducing portion sizing, and we look forward to reviewing progress when we return to this subject following publication of the first set of monitoring data in March 2018. In the meantime, we recommend that the Government draw up measures to implement our earlier recommendation of a cap on portion sizes, linked to the calorie content of certain foods and drinks, to be introduced if swift progress on portion sizing is not achieved by voluntary means. (Paragraph 49)

Discounting and price promotions

7.We are extremely disappointed that the Government has not regulated to provide the “level playing field” on discounting and price promotions which industry representatives themselves have told us is necessary for the greatest progress. We urge the Government to follow the evidence-based advice from their chief public health advisers and to regulate to further reduce the impact of deep discounting and price promotions on sales of unhealthy food. We welcome the action which some retailers have been taking, in response to customer demand, to rebalance their promotions away from unhealthy food and drink. We look forward to seeing the results of the monitoring of price promotions which Public Health England will be undertaking. Retailers who act responsibly on discounting and promotions should not be put at a competitive disadvantage to those who do not. (Paragraph 56)


8.Whilst we welcome the changes introduced by the Committee on Advertising Practice, we urge a re-examination of the case for further restrictions on advertising of high fat, salt and sugar food and drink in the light of the most recent research not only on the effect of such advertising, but on the scale and consequences of childhood obesity. We intend to return to this subject following publication of the first set of monitoring data in March 2018. (Paragraph 69)

The out-of-home sector

9.We repeat our call for change to planning legislation to make it easier for local authorities to limit the proliferation of unhealthy food outlets in their areas. Health should be included as a material planning consideration. (Paragraph 75)

10.Ahead of our next hearing on this subject, we call on the Government to provide evidence of progress in the out-of-home sector. We will be scrutinising both the levers which it has used to secure change and those which it has in reserve if progress is inadequate. (Paragraph 77)

Measurement of success

11.We commend the Government for its promise to collect and publish regularly all the data on progress with the measures contained in the childhood obesity plan. We look forward to reviewing progress next year when the initial report is available. We hope to see clear evidence of progress and clear plans for further action if progress is unsatisfactory. (Paragraph 80)

23 March 2017