In a landmark report MPs have backed a tax on sugary drinks, alongside a raft of other proposals designed to tackle childhood obesity.
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Cambridge mum helps Jamie Oliver convince MPs to back sugar tax health reforms
In a landmark report, MPs have backed a tax on sugary drinks alongside a raft of other proposals designed to reduce childhood obesity.
Due in part to arguments puts forward by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and Cambridge’s own Rend Platings, members of the cross-party health select committee declared the childhood obesity epidemic demands “bold and urgent action from Government”.
Monday’s report, Childhood Obesity – Brave and Bold Action, said one fifth of children are overweight or obese when they begin school, and this figure increases to one third by the time they leave primary school.
Obesity costs the NHS £5.1 billion each year, and type 2 diabetes, linked to obesity, costs the NHS £8.8bn a year – almost 9 per cent of its budget.
In October, Mrs Platings faced the committee alongside Mr Oliver, whose call for a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks has now been backed by MPs.
Mrs Platings asked the committee to consider labelling low sugar products with a certificate – a cause she campaigns for with her social enterprise, Sugarwise. She told the News: “If there is to be a tax I think money raised could go into incentives and reformulation grants so we have more low sugar options.
“The future is very bright for certification, it will drive the availability of low sugar choices as well as provide the clear labelling on sugar that the health select committee and other campaigners are calling for.
“There’s no use in telling me as a mother that I should choose A instead of B if A is not available, or giving a child a choice between an unpeeled carrot and a chocolate muffin or biscuit. We need low sugar versions of favourite foods. We need to open up low sugar options.”
Dr Marie-Ann Ha, senior lecturer in public health at Anglia Ruskin University who helped MPs compile the ground-breaking document, said it was “far more than just proposing a tax on sugar”.
Researchers discovered that if people eat 50 grams of dietary fibre each day, the risk of heart disease and type two diabetes is decreased.
But the food and drink industry, she said, had helped sculpt a culture where high sugar products were considered normal. “People expect everything to taste sweet. If someone eats a food containing 20 per cent sugar, and then eats an apple with 10 per cent sugar, it’s not going to taste good.
“But people can be trained to enjoy things like fruit and vegetables more.”
Dr Ha said it was important to influence people to be healthy when they are young, because unhealthy habits are much harder to break the older a person becomes.
At that point, the cost of treatment can be “enormous”, and it becomes painful to exercise. Added to heart issues and diabetes can be the increased risk of cancer and arthritis.
“The changes need to be made by national policy makers.”