The UK Health Select Committee of MPs has published a report condemning the government response to the growing obesity epidemic and demanding urgent action.

The Committee makes more than 70 recommendations for reforms to school food, labelling, transport and agricultural policies but stopped short of recommending regulation of TV advertising, calling instead for voluntary controls.

The report estimates that in the UK obesity costs £3.7 billion pounds per year.

What the government should do:
- Adopt a health education campaign spelling out the health risks of being obese and overweight
- Carry out a national food survey to see what people really eat plus research into the link between alcohol and obesity
- Department for Culture, Media and Sport to review how foods are marketed - including celebrity endorsements - to see how healthy eating messages could be included
- Legislate for the introduction of a "traffic light" system in supermarkets to label food as high, medium or low energy
- Reassess VAT rules to eliminate anomalies in the current system
- The Department of Transport to introduce a national walking strategy
- Aim to meet the target of trebling the number who cycle by 2010

What the food industry should do:
- Introduce a voluntary ban on TV junk food ads aimed at children,
- Agree clear public health targets
- Supermarkets should reduce the cost of healthy foods compared to unhealthy ones
- Remove confectionary from check-outs
- Fast-food outlets to offer more fruit and salad

What schools should do:
- Introduce a "food curriculum" where all children receive cookery lessons and learn about nutrition and food labelling
- Government should issue guidance telling schools not to accept sponsorship from junk food firms or install snack vending machines
- Three hours of PE for children each week
- Measure children’s BMI annually

What the NHS should do:
- Take action at all levels, including setting up a specialist obesity clinic in each primary care trust, and expanded hospital services
- Ensure treatments - drugs and surgery - are available where patients live
- Ensure obese children have access to specialist care

EPHA member organisation, Dr Geof Rayner, (UKPHA) called on the EU to introduce legislation that would impose an effective ban on junk food advertising. He said that a national ban on television commercials that promote junk food, such as burgers and fizzy drinks, would be ineffective because of widespread and growing access to satellite TV.

More EPHA news items on obesity.

Last modified on May 27 2004.