Obesity is the third biggest health concern among people in Britain after cancer and mental health, a new survey revealed on Tuesday.
The survey, conducted for Public Health England (PHE), also found that around 9 in 10 people support the British government working with the food industry to make food healthier by reducing sugar and calories in everyday foods.
Almost the same level of people, 87 per cent, called on supermarkets to place healthier products close to check-outs rather than unhealthy items.
The survey, carried out by Ipsos MORI, shows there is support for manufacturers, supermarkets and the eating out of home sector to make everyday foods and drinks healthier.
PHE said the responses applied to all sectors and no concessions were made for food consumed in restaurants, coffee shops or cafes, in spite of this often being labelled as a ‘treat’.
These figures came as PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie told the food industry that his organisation in 2019 will highlight where progress has not been made on sugar reduction.
He, however, warned that it may result in further action by the government.
Selbie outlined details of the survey at the Food Matters Live event in London, where he issued a call on every sector of the food industry, in particular out of home outlets, to step up and accelerate its efforts.
“The survey explored the public’s perception of obesity, and PHE’s reduction programmes that have challenged the food industry to reduce sugar and calories by 20 per cent in everyday foods.
“Such as breakfast cereals, yoghurts and pizzas, as well as ready meals,’’ said PHE.
Other findings from the survey showed over 9 in 10 people think obesity is a problem in Britain, with 79 per cent believing it has a negative impact on the National Health Service (NHS).
Only cancer (47 per cent) and mental health (43 per cent) are seen as bigger health concerns for the British population than obesity (39 per cent).
PHE said people believed that the greatest responsibility for tackling obesity lies with individuals and families, the food industry and the government, underlining a belief in a collective responsibility.
“Obesity is the pandemic of modern times.
“Customers are saying they want faster progress from the food industry, and in particular, those businesses that have taken little or no action,’’ Selbie said.
PHE chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said: “Severe obesity in 10-to-11 year-olds is at an all-time high.
“Plans to improve the nation’s diet are often described as ‘nanny state’ interference, but it is clear people want healthier food and they expect the industry to play their full part in this.’’
PHE will publish in 2019 the level of progress made towards reaching the 20 per cent sugar reduction ambition by 2020, as well as guidelines for industry to achieve the 20 per cent reduction in calories by 2024. (Xinhua/NAN)