Scottish Government declares war on weight

TV adverts for “unhealthy” food could soon be screened only after 9pm, like programmes with sex scenes, violence or foul language.

Meanwhile what are described as “ambitious plans” to help people lose weight may also see millions of pounds invested in weight management interventions for people at risk of Type 2 diabetes - or who already have it.

The proposed measures are part of a Scottish Government strategy aimed at tackling the country’s obesity problem, which is blamed for a wide range of chronic health conditions and early deaths.

Launching a consultation on the plans health minister Aileen Campbell argued previous strategies on alcohol and tobacco use had been “ground breaking”.

She says government measures could make a significant difference to a problem said to be putting an unacceptable strain on the NHS.

However as with previous health campaigns the notion of placing controls on how food and drink are promoted will almost certainly revive old arguments about restriction of choice.

The consultation runs until the end of January, at the tail end of a season in which food and alcohol firms use every promotional tool available to them - from high profile commercials to deep discounting in-store promotions - to boost sales volumes.

Called “the festive bi-month” by marketeers, the period running from mid-November to early January is the peak selling season of the year, and for some products - for example premium cigars or deluxe Sherry - accounts for a huge percentage of annual UK sales.

On past form opposition to restraints on food sales is likely from supermarket groups, while licensed trade operators can be expected to object to a new tier of restraints on their ability to make a profit.

Ideas touted over the last year have ranged from a portion control regime on food in restaurants to a ban on multibuy purchases on junk food favourites like crisps.

But the Scottish Government argues a major national health problem requires a radical new approach, and is looking for support - from average consumers as much as from health professionals.

Aileen Campbell said: “Obesity significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and depression.

“Simply put, it’s harming the people of Scotland. It also puts pressure on the NHS, other public services and our economy.

“That is why we need commitment and action from everyone across all sectors and at all levels including government, citizens, the public sector and businesses right across the country.”

She added: “We are putting forward a package of bold measures designed to help people make healthier choices, empower personal change and show real leadership.

“Now we need people who live, work and consume food and drink in Scotland to tell us what they think.

“As with our ground-breaking strategies on alcohol and tobacco, this is the start of a progressive plan of action, learning from our experience in Scotland and further afield, that will make a real, lasting difference to the country’s health.”

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