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Food Tsar Henry Dimbleby resigns, protesting lack of government action on obesity

Henry Dimbleby has resigned his position as 'food tsar', citing the Government's “insane” inaction against obesity. In an interview with the Times, he said: “Winston Churchill talked about the greatest asset a nation can have is the health of its people".

Child looking at confectionery in a store. Credit: Petr Bonek | Shutterstock

Child looking at confectionery in a store. Credit: Petr Bonek | Shutterstock

The former DEFRA non executive director also cited Andy Haldane, the former chief economist of the Bank of England, who "recently said the biggest problem we have in terms of productivity in this country is illness, and that our workforce is not fit."

He strongly criticised ministers who he said were going "backwards" on the obesity strategy and had adopted an “ultra-free-market ideology”, which meant they refused to impose restrictions on the junk-food industry.

He was interviewed by the Radio 4 Today programme and said:

"In ten years time whatever government is in power they are going to be dealing with huge problems to the NHS, which is going to suck money from the rest of government spending and cause misery from diet related disease. Type 2 diabetes alone, one condition of diet related disease is projected to cost 1.5 times the NHS what treating all cancers does today."

He told the interviewer that there is widespread support for government intervention.

Henry Dimbleby: "We talked to Red Wall voters, we talked to people all around the country and they are fed up of their children being marketed junk food, they want intervention."

He went on to talk about how 'overwhelming' it is to be surrounded by junk food and how he thought action could be taken.

"I think you can hack that without having to demonise those foods[crisps and biscuits]. I think you can do it through restricting advertising, through restricting the position in which it's placed. I think you can do it with what we recommended which is a sugar and salt reformulation tax and you can do it by concentrating on giving people skills to cook."

In response, the Government told the BBC:

 "We take tackling obesity seriously and we will continue to work closely with industry to make it easier for people to make healthier choices.

"We recently announced £20m to trial new obesity treatments and technologies to help save the NHS billions, and remain committed to introducing restrictions banning adverts on TV for foods and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS) before 9pm, as well as paid-for adverts online

You can read the Times story here (£) or the BBC coverage here.

Published Monday 20 March 2023

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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