Scotland launches hard-hitting snack campaign as government confirms 2017 obesity strategy

By David Burrows

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/MaciejNoskowski
© iStock/MaciejNoskowski

Related tags: Nutrition

Scotland will publish a new strategy on diet and obesity next year, as new research shows that the average child aged between four and 10 eats around 110,000 calories through “unhealthy, unnecessary snacks” annually.

The survey, by Food Standards Scotland (FSS), also shows the average intake of sugary drinks is around 145 cans (48 litres) per year – the equivalent to 4.6 kg of sugar or 19,400 calories.

“Over the year an average seven-year-old child eats more than their body weight (23 kg) in unhealthy snacks alone and consumption of unhealthy snacks and drinks equates to around a quarter (129,749 kcal) of their yearly calorie requirement,”​ FSS noted.

The findings have been published in tandem with a new campaign designed to encourage people to drop unhealthy snacks or swap them for healthier alternatives.

FSS chief executive Geoff Ogle said the hard-hitting campaign is needed to curb rising levels of obesity in the country. “Combined with our package of recommendations to Scottish Ministers [this campaign] will go some way in addressing Scotland’s deep-rooted diet related issues.”

Campaigns geared towards behavioural change are just the start, though. FSS has suggested Scotland’s obesity strategy should also include restrictions on junk food price promotions, reformulation targets, sugar taxes and bans on advertising.

Ogle recently told FoodNavigator​ that the UK’s recently-published childhood obesity strategy had removed too many of these options. Scotland’s health minister has also criticised the UK strategy​; Aileen Campbell was particularly disappointed by the UK government’s failure to introduce a ban on advertising unhealthy foods before 9pm.

New programme

Confirmation that Scotland will publish its own obesity strategy came as part of the new ‘programme for government’​, which sets out parliament’s plans for the coming year. The paper also detailed a number of new policies and work streams relevant to the food and drink sector.

Work will begin on a Good Food Nation Bill to “join up the Government’s approach on food [and] consider what steps can be taken to improve the effectiveness of the food and drink supply chain”.

A Circular Economy and Zero Waste Bill will also be introduced in 2017. This will likely include details of how the government plans to meet a self-imposed target to cut food waste by a third by 2025.

David Thomson, CEO of the Scottish Food and Drink Federation (SFDF), said it was “fantastic”​ to see the sector given such prominence in the government’s programme. “We are delighted that the vital contribution of our sector continues to be recognised, with food manufacturing identified as a key growth sector in Scotland,” ​he said.

F&D worth 17.2bn

Figures published earlier this week show that Scotland’s food manufacturing sector grew at twice the rate of the UK average – rising 43% (compared to 21%) from 2008 to 2014. Annual turnover for the sector reached £14.4bn (€17.2bn) in 2014, whilst investment in research and development by manufacturing firms has doubled since 2007.

Scotland Food & Drink – a not-for-profit organisation formed in 2007 to boost the profitability of Scotland’s food and drink businesses – has a target to grow the industry to £16.5bn (€19.7bn) by 2017. It will be working with government to develop a “refreshed”​ food and drink strategy, which will be published in spring next year.

Brexit will, of course, have an impact on future plans. “Scotland’s food and drink industry has experienced impressive growth in recent years, much of it based on trade with the EU,”​ the government said. “Following the EU referendum result we will work with the sector and with the UK Government to develop the international trading conditions that will enable the sector to build on its success.”

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, also announced that she would be consulting on a draft Referendum Bill rather than tabling new legislation to push through a second Scottish independence vote quickly.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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