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Last Updated: Friday, 9 March 2007, 07:39 GMT
More action urged on healthy food
Jamie Oliver
Jamie Oliver has been campaigning for healthy school meals
The government needs to work harder on some of its policies on encouraging the nation to eat healthily, according to a consumer watchdog.

Which? said it particularly wanted to see more action on the advertising of unhealthy foods to children.

It gives marks out of 10 for effort and achievement in four areas, with school meals "the star pupil" in both aspects.

The Department of Health said the report failed to acknowledge progress made "across the range of issues".

Public health minister Caroline Flint told BBC Radio Five Live: "We've achieved a great deal in the last two years and there's a huge shift, I have to say, in particularly supermarkets.

"In the past they could maybe just think health was something rather trivial - they all now see it as important to their business and that's what making them change faster than anything else."

Health check

It has been two years since the government launched its Food and Health Action Plan to improve public health and encourage healthy eating.

Which? rated how well it considered the government was doing.

The marks out of 10 take into account the level of effort and achievement Which? felt the government had reached within four areas:

  • simplified food labelling
  • food advertising and promotion to children
  • working with the industry to reduce fat, sugar and salt
  • school meals

There has been a dramatic shift in the attitude of the food industry in the last two years, partly due to government pressure
Department of Health

Its "report card" expresses "extreme disappointment" at the government's performance to ban advertising of junk foods to children, awarding 5/10 for effort and 3/10 for achievement.

It says proposals by broadcasting regulator Ofcom were late and its final decision far too weak.

As a results, ads for unhealthy foods can still be shown on TV when most children under 16 are watching, it claims.

Ofcom, however, maintains the advertising restrictions will make a significant difference.

'Underachieving'

Which? awarded 9/10 for government efforts to introduce traffic light labels on food packaging, making it easier to understand nutritional content, but 6/10 for achievement.

This is because several major food manufacturers have ignored the scheme and instead opted to use their own labelling system.

The government again scored high - 8/10 - for its efforts to reduce fat, sugar and salt levels in foods, but low for its achievement - 3/10.

School meals are the star pupil but we need real progress in the other areas
Sue Davies
Which? chief policy adviser

Which? said: "Although targets for salt consumption were published in March 2006, targets for sugar, fat and portions are still undecided."

On schools meals, the government was awarded 10/10 for effort and 7/10 for achievement.

Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies said: "Although the government is trying hard, it is still underachieving and failing to reach its own targets.

"School meals are the star pupil but we need real progress in the other areas.

"We would like to see the government realise its potential and step in regarding unhealthy food promotion and advertising in particular.

"Without more government effort in this area, children's health will stay bottom of the class."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We are disappointed this report fails to acknowledge the complexity of the issue or the progress made across the range of issues.

"There has been a dramatic shift in the attitude of the food industry in the last two years, partly due to government pressure and partly due to shifting consumer attitudes."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Views from both sides of the food advertising debate



SEE ALSO
Junk food ad ban plans laid out
22 Feb 07 |  Health
Pupils helped to dodge snack ban
22 Nov 06 |  UK Politics

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