1.The human cost of obesity is huge
We can’t ignore the harm obesity causes.
Very overweight children face bullying, low self-esteem and school absence.
And we know that very overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults so it’s worrying that by 11 years old one in three of our children are already overweight or obese.
Obesity in adulthood is a leading cause of ill health and premature death, associated with serious but preventable illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
2.The financial cost of obesity is huge
Obesity is estimated to cost our health service over £6 billion every year and we shouldn’t forget the cost to wider society including increased sickness absence and reduced productivity – one study put the estimated overall cost to society at £27 billion.
3.Obesity hits the poorest hardest
Excess weight (and tooth decay) is associated with deprivation in England. Children living in the most deprived communities are twice as likely to be very overweight as those in the least deprived.
Obesity and poor health often mean poor job prospects and vice versa.
4.Sugar reduction is just the start of a journey
There’s so much to do if we want to reduce childhood obesity but we believe our work with industry to remove 20% sugar from food by 2020 is a good start.
We’re focusing first on the nine food categories that contribute the most to children’s sugar intake; cakes, biscuits, puddings, ice cream, confectionery, morning goods (such as croissants and muffins), yoghurts, breakfast cereals and sweet spreads.
We will also work to reduce salt levels in foods and from next year focus on calories, and possibly later saturated fat depending on advice from our experts.
5.You’ll hear about our meetings with industry and public health campaigners
We’ve already had some early constructive discussions with industry - as well as organisations campaigning to reduce sugar - and we’re encouraged that some retailers, manufacturers and places we eat out in are already working to reduce sugar in their products.
From November we’ll be holding more technically focused meetings where we’ll ask for specific information on the action businesses have taken so far, or are planning, on sugar levels, portion size and on encouraging their customers to choose healthier options.
6.We’re working with all parts of the food industry
We’re looking forward to working with the big businesses that make or sell food but we need a level playing field across all the places we eat so we’ll also be looking at the progress made by cafés, coffee shops and restaurants.
It’s important we do this because getting a takeaway and eating out is now becoming the norm rather than an occasional treat.
Did you know that a fifth of adults and children eat takeaway meals at home once a week or more and 75% of people reported eating out or buying takeaway food in 2014 (compared to 68% in 2010)?
7.We’re committed to transparency so you can monitor progress
We’ll be publishing regular data – using GOV.UK, blogs and social media – to help everyone assess the progress of our ambition to remove 20% of the sugar from the categories of food mentioned above, by 2020.
When businesses make their products healthier we’ll aim to highlight and generate praise for their efforts.
8.We have experience of working with industry on programmes like this
Did you know that a loaf of bread today contains 40% less salt than 10 years ago?
Our team have experience working with industry to reduce salt levels in foods. This is why we believe sugar reduction can work too.
9.Our programmes to monitor overweight and obesity levels are world leading
Apart from simply monitoring changes in the amount of sugar in food the ultimate goal is to contribute towards an overall reduction in childhood obesity as outlined in the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan.
We can check progress through the National Childhood Measurement Programme (which measures the height and weight of children in reception class and year 6) and the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (which looks at the foods making up the daily diet of the general population).
10.No single project or initiative can beat obesity
We’ll keep campaigning to encourage individuals and families to make healthier choices. Our Change4Life and One You campaigns offer tips and advice to help families and adults eat better and move more.
An example of our campaigns work is the launch of the Sugar Smart app which has been downloaded over 2.5 million times and helps families check the amount of sugar in their favourite foods and drinks.
As well as these national plans, local areas are part of the journey, for example by procuring, serving and selling healthy food.