Ministers have launched a crackdown on junk food as part of a plan to tackle Britain’s growing obesity crisis.
The proposals include a ban on TV and online adverts until after the 9pm watershed and an end to buy-one-get-one-free promotions on unhealthy foods.
Cafe, takeaway or restaurant chains with more than 250 staff will be ordered to publish calorie counts on menus while alcoholic drinks will have to display hidden ‘liquid calories’.
GPs will be encouraged to prescribe cycling as a way for patients to lose weight amid growing evidence that excess weight is associated with a higher risks from coronavirus.
The new “Better Health” campaign will provide advice to around 35 million Brits, including setting out a 12-week diet plan to help them lose weight.
The plan comes as evidence mounts on the link between excess weight and a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus.
A Public Health England (PHE) study published at the weekend discovered that being classed as medically obese increased the risk of death from coronavirus by 40%.
Almost two thirds (63%) of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity, with obesity-related illnesses costing the NHS £6 billion a year.
A worrying one in three children leave primary school overweight or obese.
The highly-interventionist approach marks a major u-turn from Boris Johnson, who until recently has been a vocal opponent of “sin taxes” and “nanny state” interventions on public health.
The PM, who has lost a “stone and a bit” in his own brush with the deadly disease, said: “Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier.
“If we all do our bit, we can reduce our health risks and protect ourselves against coronavirus – as well as taking pressure off the NHS.”
Research shows that many adults are consuming 200-300 extra calories a day above recommended guidelines, with overweight children consuming up to 500 calories more than needed.
The Government plans to consult on whether the junk food ban on online adverts should apply at all times of day.
New laws will restrict the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar, such as ‘buy one get one free’ offers – and they will be banned from checkouts and shop entrances.
Shops will be encouraged to offer more discounts on healthier food like fruit and vegetables.
A second consultation will look at plans to provide calorie labelling on alcohol, which is estimated to account for nearly 10% of the calorie intake of those who drink.
And a third study will look at the current ‘traffic light’ labelling system on food to see if it could be more effective.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said taking “radical action” to tackle obesity was “long overdue”.
He added: “Years of Tory cuts to public health budgets and the backsliding on a pre-watershed ban on junk food advertising have left us with some of the worst rates of childhood obesity anywhere in the world.
“Tory ministers have promised action before only for measures to be kicked into the long grass with consultation after consultation. We are now facing an obesity crisis.”