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Public Health

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 11th March 2004.

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Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow Shadow Secretary of State for Health 11:30 am, 11th March 2004

If she will make a statement on the work on public health conducted jointly by her Department and the Department of Health.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My Department works with the Department of Health on a range of key issues connected with public health, including fuel poverty, poor environment quality, animal health, services in rural areas, food and exercise. It will play its part in "Choosing Health", which is the consultation on action to improve people's health that was launched last week.

Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow Shadow Secretary of State for Health

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. Can she tell us what assessment has been made of how to manage the surplus of fat that results from dairy processing to produce low-fat butter and milk, and what discussions have taken place with the Department of Health at ministerial and official level on that? Given the obesity epidemic that is sweeping our nation, would it not be sensible to bank the health dividend and ensure that that fat does not find its way back into the food chain?

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. As I have said, my Department is engaged in much work and discussion, including workshops and seminars, and I shall pass on the hon. Gentleman's observations.

Photo of Mark Lazarowicz Mark Lazarowicz Labour/Co-operative, Edinburgh North and Leith

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways to promote public health would be for food companies that encourage unhealthy diets in children to stop doing that? Is she trying to persuade her Cabinet colleagues to support recommendations to address the imbalance in television advertising, so that healthier eating, rather than unhealthy eating, is promoted?

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I know that those issues are being considered not only by other Departments but by the Food Standards Agency. People are looking at the concerns that have been expressed on those issues and trying to get the balance right.

Photo of Russell Brown Russell Brown Labour, Dumfries

There is growing concern that low-level ground vibration from wind farms has the potential to have an adverse effect on public health. Has my right hon. Friend asked the Department of Health or an independent body to examine low-level vibration from wind turbines and its possible effects, or does she intend to do so?