Monday, February 8, 2016

Childhood obesity is a national emergency, says Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, has described the rise in childhood obesity as a “national emergency” and promised a “gamechanging” response from the government.

In an interview on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, he said the government would introduce either a sugar tax or something “equally robust” when it publishes its childhood obesity strategy.

Hunt was speaking after the chef Jamie Oliver told the same programme that he and fellow campaigners would “get more ninja” and “less nice” if the government refused to introduce a sugar tax, of which he is a longstanding supporter.

Until relatively recently David Cameron was firmly opposed to imposing a tax on sugary drinks, with the government instead focusing on trying to persuade the food and drinks industry to reduce sugar content voluntarily. Shortly after the general election George Freeman, a health minister, was reprimanded by No 10 after he publicly suggested a sugar tax might be justified.

But last month Cameron indicated he had had a change of heart. Although still reluctant in principle to impose new taxes, he suggested he was now considering introducing a sugar tax because the obesity crisis was so serious.

Hunt told Marr: “We have got to do something about this. I’ve got a one-year-old daughter, and by the time she reaches adulthood a third of the population will be clinically obese. One in 10 will have type 2 diabetes. It is a national emergency.”

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