Consumer groups and health experts are calling for unhealthy junk food to be regulated in the same way as cigarettes. Consumers International (CI) and the World Obesity Federation (WOF) want world governments to step in and introduce strict rules to tackle the troubling issue of obesity in the UK.
The WOF and CI suggest that just as cigarette packages carry warnings, food packaging should also to carry health warnings and even pictures depicting the life-threatening illnesses caused by unhealthy eating. Other suggestions include restricting child-focused advertising of junk foods, and forcing companies to reduce the amount of salt, artificial trans fats and sugar in their products.
A Taxing Subject
With statistics showing an increase in global deaths due to obesity rising from 2.6 million in 2005 to 3.4 million in 2010, both organisations believe the government needs to provide funding for extensive research into the subject. Dr Lobstein of the WOF states that “If obesity was an infectious disease, we would have seen billions of dollars being invested in bringing it under control.” Controversially, the groups are asking MPs to consider the introduction of taxes in order to deter consumers from purchasing unhealthy products in excess.
Learning from Past Mistakes
Luke Upchurch of Consumers International draws comparisons between the deaths caused by obesity and the deaths caused by smoking by saying, “We want to avoid a situation like the 1960s, where the tobacco industry were saying there is nothing wrong with cigarettes, they are good for our health, and 30 or 40 years later millions have died. If we don’t take action now, we are going to have the same intransigence and foot-dragging in the food industry.”
The Food Industry Taken to Task
Terry Jones, director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation, believes the UK food industry is already taking steps to improve the quality of their products and are striving to raise public awareness of the benefits of healthy eating.