Obesity Strategy 2020

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:56 pm on 27th May 2021.

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Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 2:56 pm, 27th May 2021

I understand why my right hon. Friend is calling for milestones but, although the problem is a national one, there are different numbers for the proportion of the population that is overweight or living with obesity in each area. We can set milestones, but a national mile- stone may mask whether we are achieving what we need to achieve in the areas—often the more deprived areas in our communities—where we need to help, encourage, support and educate people to get them further on this journey. I will listen attentively to his contribution, as I always do, and then I may come back to him in my closing speech.

Three out of five children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school. We know that there is a direct correlation between the dietary habits picked up early in life and behaviour later on. We are working to create the right health environment to support people, and I will set out briefly some of the actions we are taking, starting with out-of-home calorie labelling. Restrictions laid in the House on 13 May will require large businesses in England with 250 or more employees, including restaurants, cafés and takeaways, to display calorie information for non-pre-packed food and soft drink items that they sell. Many have already gone some way in doing that. These regulations will support customers to make informed, healthier choices when eating out or purchasing a takeaway.

As I said, many businesses have articulated to me that they understand fully the importance of providing information and being proactive in leading the way. They recognise the demand from their customers for more information so that they can pursue a healthier lifestyle. Smaller businesses currently do not fall within the scope of the regulations.

We have also listened carefully throughout the consultation period to individuals and stakeholders who have the challenge of living with eating disorders. We feel we have been careful and sensitive and have put in reasonable adjustments to help that group. We have also exempted schools from the requirement to display calorie information, given the concern about children in school settings. We have included a provision in the regulations allowing business to provide a menu without calorie information on request.