Many campaigners were desperately hoping for legal requirements for sugar reduction in a wide range of foods, but instead the food industry has been urged to cut added sugars from children’s food voluntarily (in a similar way to what happened with salt over a decade ago).
Disappointment at the lack of real ‘teeth’ in the Childhood Obesity Strategy published today is understandable. I, for one, would have welcomed with open arms the mandatory banning of junk food adverts on television before the watershed as well as ‘guilt aisles’ in supermarkets. Both the ads and the sweets at the checkout will remain the Achilles heel of many an exhausted parent struggling to enforce any semblance of healthy eating rules within family life.
It is a pity, too, that there will be no limits on multi-buy supermarket deals, or voluntary guidance for local authorities to design healthy towns and homes.
However, it’s no reason for us to give up!
Whether the food industry achieves significant sugar reductions is in no small way down to us as parents, carers, nursery school managers, head teachers and anyone else involved in the feeding, at any point in the chain, of children. We, as purchasers, put the pressure on manufacturers by voting with our purses.
The current government is expecting us to take our own share of responsibility. This is harder to achieve if you don’t have the motivation, the money or the knowledge to push changes in the way you shop and feed the family, though.
We need to get the message across to parents and carers that children’s diets count, and help everyone understand the health benefits if they take back control over what their kids eat.
If water becomes the drink of habit, the sugar content of an orange squash doesn’t matter. If natural yogurt with fruit is the usual option at home, if porridge replaces Sugar Puffs and Rich Tea replace chocolate digestives, sugar will automatically be reduced. You’ll be laying down habits that children will take with them, affecting the next generation in turn.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not easy. I’ve got an eight and seven-year-old and it’s a constant battle. But it’s one I’m prepared to fight because if I lose my kids to the tidal wave of obesity sweeping this nation, I’m not prepared to sit back and blame anyone other than myself for their fate.