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The National Obesity Forum has called for a tax on sugary drinks this week at more than double the level recommended by Public Health England, in a manifesto to improve public health launched to mark the beginning of its JanUary campaign (formerly National Obesity Awareness Week). The manifesto was presented at the All-party Parliamentary Group on Adult and Childhood obesity at the House of Commons re-launched today which we attended.

The Forum, which comprises of practicing healthcare professionals and clinicians, has claimed that only a 50 percent tax on sugary drinks will prompt a change in consumer behaviour. It has, however, rejected calls for a tax on food products, claiming such a move would unfairly penalise low-income families – instead insisting the Government should abandon the Responsibility Deal and mandate the reformulation of foods to reduce levels of fats, sugars and salts.

Other recommendations in the Forum’s manifesto, include GPs routinely measuring the weight and BMI of young children, including water in Public Health England’s relaunched ‘eat well’ plate, banning fast food outlets near schools, and insisting on a watershed ban for junk food advertising.

The Forum has also called for the expansion of specialist non-surgical weight management treatment services across the UK, and improved information on local weight management resources and services for GPs and nurses.

Professor David Haslam, Chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: “The measures we’ve proposed could be relatively easily implemented with substantial benefits to public health. There have been repeated warnings about the health of the population, but we remain in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Tackling this problem requires immediate and concerted action. We need to improve and extend the treatment services available. We also need to educate and, where appropriate, change consumer behaviour.” “Anything less than a 50 percent tax on sugary drinks will be insufficient as a disincentive to consumers. We don’t currently support taxing food products – this would be unfair to particularly low-income families. But sugary drinks have no place in anyone’s diet.”

Unfortunately this meeting was very poorly attended by MPs. Let’s hope that this is not a sign of things to come with Cameron’s much anticipated childhood obesity strategy.

The National Obesity Forum is encouraging members of the public to make healthy New Year’s Resolutions and participate in a sugar reduction challenge as part of the JanUary campaign.

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