1st March, 2004
New Labour’s close ties to the fast-food industry are working against the interests of public health
Ministers worry about weight: the cost to the National Health Service of obesity-related illnesses will swell by nearly a third to £3.6 billion by 2010. At the end of last year the Labour government promised to fight this ‘obesity crisis’ by reining in the firms selling high-fat, high-salt and high-sugar foodstuffs.
In December 2003 culture minister Tessa Jowell promised a tough new advertising code blocking adverts for unhealthy food during children’s television programmes. This announcement followed the introduction of a bill in Parliament by Labour MP Debra Shipley to ban junk food ads targeting toddlers. However, although Shipley’s bill received widespread publicity and apparently was the spur for Jowell’s December announcement, it did not become law. Shipley complained to The Ecologist about ‘lack of support’ from Jowell following ‘intense lobbying’ by the fast-food industry.
Jowell’s officials began backtracking soon after the minister’s headline-grabbing announcement. While Jowell promised immediate action, Ofcom chief executive Stephen Carter spoke to MPs of a ‘six-month schedule’. The communications industries...
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