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Childhood obesity

An open letter to Government: put children's health back on the agenda

We joined over 25 innovative food brands, investors and business support providers in calling on the Government to reconsider the U-turn on restrictions of promotions of HFSS products.

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Impact on Urban Health

On 17 May, the Government confirmed a delay to the implementation of restrictions on TV and online advertising and volume promotions of HFSS (high fat, salt or sugar) products. We worked with our partner Mission Ventures to draft a letter to the Prime Minister expressing our deep concern about the U-turn on children’s health.

These regulations would help innovative healthier products and companies to come to market and scale, and encourage existing corporate brands to accelerate healthier product innovation. Healthy options must be made available and affordable for everyone if we are to make positive steps forward to improve child health.

Over 25 innovative food brands, investors and business support providers joined us in calling on the Government to reconsider the U-turn. A short version of this letter originally appeared in The Times on 19 May.

The letter is shown in full below.

Dear Prime Minister

We are writing as representatives of innovative food brands, investors and business support providers to express our deep concern about the Government’s U-turn on children’s health. 

We are the forward-thinking food industry that recognises the importance of affordable and healthy food for all, in line with the government’s original, world-leading obesity strategy. Scrapping regulation on multi-buys and junk food advertising undermines emerging innovation in our industry, while delays to these commitments enable big food and drink to continue swamping the public with unhealthy options, rather than setting the stage for healthier products and brands. 

All children and families deserve the opportunity to be healthy. Child health has worsened over the pandemic to the point where 1 in 4 children leave primary school with obesity, and people who live in lower-income areas are twice as likely to be affected. We must act so the gap in health outcomes between the lowest and highest income households does not widen further. You are delaying policies that are both vital for levelling up and popular with 74% of the public. 

We were excited by the strategy originally introduced by this government, which responded to the evidence showing that junk food advertising, store layouts, and special offers all end up shaping what’s in our bags and make it harder than it should be for families to eat healthily. 

These regulations would help innovative healthier products and companies – like those we represent – to come to market and scale and encourage existing corporate brands to accelerate healthier product innovation. 

By delaying and potentially scrapping the originally ambitious and evidence-based plans to improve the health of the food industry, you are allowing unhealthy brands to profit and flourish and worsening the obesity crisis. You have an opportunity to level the playing field, put healthier foods in the spotlight, and provide an incentive for more brands to innovate. 

We know we are the future of food. As the industry moves toward a healthier and more sustainable future, we look to the government to help us to speed up this change. We desperately need solutions that rebalance food options, support progressive food companies, and make it easier for everyone to eat better, and we call on the government to champion this movement with us – not against us. 

Yours faithfully,

Mission Ventures and Impact on Urban Health

Signatories

Andy Ratcliffe, Executive Director, Impact on Urban Health

Louis Bedwell, Managing Director, Mission Ventures 

Stephen Muers, CEO, Big Society Capital
Marieke Syed, Founder, Snackzilla 

Benjamin Whitehead, Founder, Spare Snacks 

Rushina Shah, Founder, Insane Grain

Theadora Alexander, CEO, Young Foodies

Jeff Webster, Co-Founder, Hunter & Gather

Dr. Will Breakey, Josh Rose and Liam White, Co-founders, Dr. Wills

Michael Ingemann, Chairman, THINK Hospitality
Thomas Hal Robson-Kanu, Founder, CEO, The Turmeric Co. 

Daniel Spayne, Managing Director, Equinox Kombucha
Jessica Harris, Founder, Little Bandits

Diana Babics, Founder, Nourish Awards

Jasper Smith, Founder, Vala Capital

Mark Sainsbury, Trustee Mark Leonard Trust, Co-founder Sustainable Restaurant Association

Jean de Fougerolles, Managing Partner, Ascension Ventures

Jess Mackenzie, Founder, Jess Cooks 

Dean Dempsey, Founder, Naturelly

Sarah Smart, UK CEO, The Collective Dairy

Anthony Fletcher, Founder & CEO, Urban Legend

Jason Gibb, Founder, Bread & Jam

John Stapleton, Angel Investor, The Authentic Entrepreneur 

Jagir Mankodi, Director, Superfoodio

Eve Yankah, Founder, Bepps 

George Heler, Founder, Eatlean

Neill Sullivan, Founder, ANS Synergy

Franco Beer, Founder, BOKA

Download the letter