News Children's Food Campaign

The Children's Food Heroes and Children's Food Zeroes of 2016

Here’s our look back over the past year to see who has made a significant contribution towards helping Children’s Food Campaign achieve its goals; and who has thrown roadblocks in the way.  The winners of the 2016 Children’s Food Heroes and Children's Food Zeroes awards are  …….

Children's Food Heroes 2016

Children's Food Zeroes 2016


Political Hero: 

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne MP and current Chancellor Phillip Hammond MP

The Budget was the moment that our amazing campaigning efforts for a sugary drinks tax turned from policy ask to Government policy. But that was only the first step of a process we are still only part way through of ensuring the Soft Drinks Industry Levy is fully implemented. Credit must go to the current Chancellor, Phillip Hammond; not only for continuing the policy of his predecessor, but also for (thus far) staying strong despite sustained industry lobbying against the tax.

Special mention also to:

•    Sarah Wollaston MP – for continuing to champion ‘brave and bold’ policies to tackle childhood obesity.
•    Sharon Hodgson MP, Alison Thewliss  MP, Baroness Benjamin and Robert Flello MP – for their work chairing the All Party Parliamentary Groups for school food, infant feeding, fit and healthy childhood, and adult and childhood obesity respectively. 
•    Councils beginning with ‘B’ – Blackpool for being the first Council to sign up to the Local Authority Declaration on Healthy Weight; Brighton and Hove for being the first Sugar Smart City and Bristol for agreeing recently to do the same.  The food and health team at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust also received a nomination for their good work.

Industry Hero:

This award has kindly been sponsored by The Organic Cookery School - a not for profit outreach cookery school that works in the South East.

Andy Taylor, Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) 

CAP, the industry body that writes the marketing rules, has finally brought the rules for non-broadcast marketing of junk food in line with those for television. Andy Taylor, the regulatory policy officer in charge of drafting those new rules, has at least been open to our representations and come up with some better answers on brand advertising than expected. The new rules CAP announced earlier this month have many potential loopholes and a lot comes down to how they are applied from July 2017 onwards. But it is still the first time that proper restrictions will apply to less healthy food ads aimed at children online, in cinemas and on billboards.  And, especially in the current absence of Government-led initiatives, it is a concrete step towards fuller protection for children from exposure to such junk food advertising. 

Special mention also to:

•    Boots – the high street pharmacy chain pledged to remove sweets and chocolates from its tills by mid-April 2016. This was a significant victory for our junk free checkouts campaign, as Boots was the first major non-food company to make this move.
•    Ribera/Lucozade and Tesco –  Tesco announced it will cut the amount of sugar in all its own-label soft drinks to below the 5 grams per 100ml at which the levy is planned to kick in. This goes much further than their previous commitments.  And, even more significantly, the makers of Lucozade and Ribena have made a similar announcement, agreeing to halve the sugar content in all their drinks to bring them below the tax threshold by 2018. 

Charity / Campaigns Hero: 

Obesity Health Alliance

The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) is a coalition of 38 organisations including medical royal colleges, charities, campaigners and professional associations.  The OHA has developed in the past 12 months to first pushing for a strong Childhood Obesity Strategy and now co-ordinating wider political lobbying and media activity on obesity issues. It has helped magnify Children’s Food Campaign’s policy calls and campaign messages on junk food marketing and a sugary drinks tax within parliament and beyond. 

Special mention also to:

First Steps Nutrition Trust, HENRY (Health Exercise Nutrition in the Really Young), and Children’s Food Trust for their advocacy and educational resources on early years nutrition

Research / Education Hero:

Professor Greta Defeyter, Northumbria University 

Greta and her team have led the way in researching, mapping and evaluating breakfast clubs, summer feeding schemes and other initiatives to tackle holiday hunger and food poverty in the UK. Greta has also supported the APPG on School Food’s policy work in this area.

Special mention also to:

•    Oliver Mytton, Adam Briggs and Peter Scarborough  – these three young academics from Oxford and Cambridge Universities have been instrumental in producing ground-breaking research modelling the health impact and effectiveness of the soft drinks industry levy 
•    Action on Sugar – for their prodigious output of newsworthy stories on the sugar and salt content of the nation's favourite brands and products, and the way this helps shape the wider debate on sugar reduction. 

Campaigner Hero:

Robin Ireland

Robin has turned the Health Equalities Group into a major public health force, not just in the North West but nationally too. He is stepping down as chief executive at the end of the month, after many years campaigning to change local and national policies. And he has achieved much: from bringing the public health directors in his region together to support a sugary drinks tax, to hard-hitting education initiatives like ‘Give Up Loving Pop’, to drafting the first Local Authority Declaration on Healthy Weight – an initiative now taken up nationally by Sustain colleagues.  Plus Robin has never been afraid to dress up as a tooth fairy to further the cause.

Special mention also to: 

•    Helen Crawley, Lindsay Graham and Patti Rundall - three campaigners who have tirelessly championed better food education, tackling food poverty nationally and globally and calling out companies for irresponsible marketing. 
•    Jamie Oliver – for continuing to campaign on school food, junk food marketing and sugar reduction issues, and not just being satisfied with the wins already achieved.
•    Lucy Gavaghan – an animal welfare campaigner who is a good reminder that teens themselves have the power and tools to help bring about positive change in the food system.


Political Zero:

The Prime Minister and her policy advisors 

Only Coca Cola (see below) got more Food Zeroes nominations than the Prime Minister, Theresa May.  Five months on from the launch of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan, there is rightly still a strong sense of dashed expectations and missed opportunities.  The absence of any action on marketing and food promotion from the Plan is the most glaring omission. But they weren’t the only sections watered down from earlier, never published, versions. And the section on school food was also a let down – not building on the progress of the School Food Plan, whilst also failing to close the loophole which means academies created between 2010-2014 don’t have to meet the school food standards.

Food Industry Zero:

Food and Drink Federation 

The Food and Drink Federation’s aggressive lobbying against the sugary drinks tax has been a retrograde step which even some of its own members have been shying away from. As we exposed a few weeks ago, companies that accept the need for a soft drinks industry levy, or have a neutral position, appear to be ‘carrying the can’ for companies that benefit from sales of sugary drinks.

In addition, FDF found itself at the centre of controversy during the Rio Olympics. Public health experts from 5 continents strongly criticised comments made by the head of the Food and Drink Federation, that non-western countries have “no problem" with Coca Cola and McDonald’s sponsorship of the Olympics.

Special mention also to:

WHSmith and other non-food retailers who continue to sell and promote sweets and chocolates at their tills. 

Soft Drink Industry Zero:

British  Soft  Drinks  Association  /  Can  the  Tax 

The Can the Tax lobby group spent several hundred thousand pounds between August and November attempting to get the Government to drop its planned Soft Drinks Industry Levy. The group was spearheaded by the British Soft Drinks Association, who sponsored fringe meetings at Party Conferences, took out ads in political magazines and newsites, and employed a specialist public affairs consultancy.  But we hit back with our 'Tax the Can' initiative; and our arguments won. The one big remaining battle left is over the actual rates the levy is set at.

Special mention also to:

Coca Cola – for so actively backing the Can the Tax campaign, with senior Coca Cola UK executives participating in its activity in person and online. Also for the company's efforts to try to stop the onward march of sugar taxes globally. And, closer to home, for another year of 'Holidays are Coming' trucks giving away sugary drinks in town centres across the country.

Junk Food Marketing Zero:


Twice in latter half of 2016 the Advertising Standards Authority found that Kellogg’s broke EU rules and made misleading health and nutrition claims when marketing its sugary cereals. Kellogg’s #GreatStarts Olympics ad campaign, which ran from April to August 2016,  misleadingly claimed that a bowl of cereal or snack bar high in sugar was a ‘great start to the day’ and ‘fuel for success’. We also examined the company’s competitions and giveaways aimed at families and found the entry codes were primarily available on ‘less healthy’ products, and the website pointed to promotions mainly on those products.  

Special mention also to:

  • Confectionery companies. Kinder, Haribo, Swizzels Matlow, Chupa Chups and Warheads are some of the brands which repeatedly feature in our list of worst offenders for advertising sugary foods to children online and via apps and social media.
  • Disney - for the sheer amount of chocolate, sweets and other sugary products which feature Star Wars or other licensed Disney characters on their packaging.

Research / Education Zero:

The  Tax  Payers  Alliance and the Institute for Economic Affairs

Events of the last year have added new meaning to the question of whether ‘sugar is the new tobacco’. Much of the industry and political response echoes tobacco industry’s tactics at moments of crisis. The Taxpayers Alliance and other bullish sugar-tax naysayers adopt dubious names to associate themselves with populist credentials, and try to paint opponents as extreme ‘Nanny Staters’. Meanwhile the Institute of Economic Affairs, another vocal opponent of public health policies, attempts to add a veneer of respectability to those arguments, whilst receiving funding from and working closely with tobacco companies and others who stand to benefit from a lack of government intervention. 



Shanni Elcock, Georgia Levey and Loukia Lucas

Our amazing 2016 Children’s Food Campaign volunteers have produced much of the background research which underpins our reports, consultation submissions and campaigns. They also help with the behind-the-scenes projects and admin that keep the Children’s Food Campaign show on the road, and online. Thank you also to all the Sustain volunteers who have chipped in to support our work and donned a costume or handed out flyers/toothbrushes at one of our campaign stunts! 

Our Funders

We would like to thank British Heart Foundation for their support of our junk food marketing work since 2009, through to the summer of this year.  We are grateful to the Children’s Health Fund, and to several small trusts and donors for their generous support of our sugary drinks tax campaigning in 2016.  A full list of our major donors is published in Sustain’s annual report. Thank you also to everyone who gives an occasional £10 or £20 to help us promote and progress a specific campaign action. Such support is invaluable.

If you are interested in supporting the work of the Children’s Food Campaign - and ensuring we continue to be an effective champion for good food and a good food culture in our schools, high streets, communities and throughout society – please get in touch, or go to our donation page.

Published Friday 23 December 2016

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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