Childhood obesity: Time for action Contents


96.The BMA has repeatedly called for a consistent approach to food labelling, and supports a mandatory traffic light approach to displaying nutritional information for all pre-packaged food and drink products.102 The use of traffic-light labelling is popular with the public, and accessible for children and young people, and evidence to this inquiry argued that the Government should make the front-of-pack labelling system mandatory in both the home and the out of home sector to provide a level playing field to both consumers and industry.103 In written evidence, Diabetes UK argued:

Equipping consumers with nutritional information is an important step in helping people to be more informed about the food choices they make, wherever they choose to eat. UK government and the food service industry should introduce compulsory, clear and consistent nutrition labelling such as calorie labelling, with additional contextual information, at the point of choice in restaurants, cafes and takeaways. Over a quarter of adults and one fifth of children eat food from out of home outlets at least once a week. These foods tend to be higher in energy intake, fat, sugar and salt. Evidence suggests that calorie labelling on menus can reduce the number of calories per purchase. Polling conducted for Diabetes UK by ComRes indicates that three quarters (76%) of British adults agree that all cafes and restaurants should display calorie information on their menus so that consumers are informed about the calorie content of the food and drinks they buy.104

97.This recommendation was supported, broadly, by industry in their submissions to this inquiry, with the British Soft Drinks Association arguing that in the next round of the Government’s childhood obesity plan:

It would be further beneficial for parents to have clear nutritional front of pack labelling on out of home products, in line with the rest of the food and drink industry.105

98.Efforts to increase awareness of healthy dietary behaviour must be supported in the next round of the Government’s childhood obesity plan by measures to ensure consistent and clear labelling information for consumers. We also support a ban on health claims on high fat, salt and sugar food and drinks, in line with oral evidence from Public Health England. Current progress on labelling in the UK is reliant on voluntary commitments and is therefore not universally applied.

99.Calorie labelling at point of food choice for the out-of-home food sector would provide basic information to enable healthier choices. However, in light of evidence that current labelling tends to be less effective at changing choices in communities where obesity prevalence is greatest, we urge the Government to ensure that the effects are carefully monitored, in order to ensure that labelling is designed to make the healthy choice clear and straightforward.

103 Ibid p.3

Published: 30 May 2018