Liz Truss launches review of England’s anti-obesity strategy
Liz Truss has launched a review of England’s anti-obesity strategy as part of a wider deregulation initiative that the new prime minister hopes will kick-start economic growth.
Boris Johnson, her predecessor, unveiled a sweeping package of measures to curb the consumption of unhealthy food and drinks, although he retreated from several of his plans this year.
Under pressure from rightwing Tory MPs, Johnson delayed by a year certain proposals including a ban on buy-one-get-one-free deals and a prohibition of television adverts for unhealthy food and drinks before 9pm. They had been due to take effect next month.
Johnson also rejected a recommendation for a new tax on sugar and salt in food put forward by a review of England’s food strategy by Henry Dimbleby, founder of the Leon restaurant chain.
Truss is now poised to dump the delayed anti-obesity plans altogether, having told the Daily Mail during the Conservative leadership contest that she would scrap the ban on buy-one-get-one-free deals, and reject any new “nanny state” levies on unhealthy food.
“Those taxes are over,” she said last month. “[People] don’t want the government telling them what to eat.”
One Whitehall official said the government had commissioned an internal review of obesity policy “in the light of the unprecedented global economic situation”.
Some officials are worried the Truss review could prompt ministers to scrap a sugar tax on soft drinks that was put in place in 2018, or reverse a recent requirement for large restaurants, cafés and pubs to show the calories in meals on their menus.
The Truss review is part of a deregulatory initiative by the new prime minister that is focused on speeding up the roll out of new infrastructure, making the planning system in England more efficient, and broadly cutting the rules on business.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the new chancellor, has ordered civil servants to concentrate all their energies on boosting annual economic growth to 2.5 per cent, as he prepares to unveil a tax-cutting mini-Budget next week.
Truss’ deregulation drive has delighted some free-market campaigners, such as John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
“Junking these nanny state policies is long overdue,” he said. “Plans to end buy-one-get-one-free [deals] were only going to pile pressure on hard-hit households during a cost of living crisis.”
But the Obesity Health Alliance, a campaign group seeking to reduce obesity, said it was “deeply concerned” about “reckless” plans to ditch the Johnson-era measures.
“This will not help the cost of living crisis in the short term, and in the long term would lead to serious consequences for our health, our economy and our NHS,” it added.
“Big multinational companies promote and advertise unhealthy food and drink to those on lower incomes, leading to increases in obesity, in inequalities, and in pressure on the NHS to treat the resulting poor health, such as cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”
One Conservative MP expressed dismay at the Truss review, saying: “Diabetes is incredibly expensive to the NHS . . . we have one of the highest diabetes-related levels of amputation in the world.”