Rosie Boycott, Food Foundation Trustee, calls on the Government and the food industry to join each other to tackle a scandal that could have a skeptic effect on all our lives. .
Food that presents the greatest health challenge of time. Nearly 20 per cent of worldwide deaths are attributed to unhealthy food choices and diet is the second highest risk factor for early death after smoking. But although people can stop smoking, food is more complicated – everyone needs to eat.
In Britain, the system that has evolved to feed us has evolved into highly efficient, high-tech, profitable and interconnected websites with companies that allow us to give Food that appeals to our boards at low prices.
But we can not deny the damage that the food system makes to our health: what we eat is our killing.
Ten percent of five-year-olds and 20 per cent of 11-year-olds are obese; There are 3.1 million people in the UK registered with diabetes (up from 2.4 million in 2010), and diabetes estimates have increased by 25 per cent over the last eight years. These are diet related diseases – we do not eat food that is good for us.
But for four million UK children, a healthy diet – defined by the Government as five fruits or vegetables per day, with meals based on starchy foods such as potatoes, some milk, beans, fishes, fish, eggs, meat , etc. – is unforgettable.
In addition, the food environment where we make choices about what we eat, especially from those in poor areas, is unhealthy.
Unfortunately, the disks are rotated against us.
Diet-related illness is not a result of a failure of personal will – for example, inability to resist more chocolate – but failure of political will. Successive governments have failed to shape a system where we can choose ourselves to protect our health rather than harm us.
Nearly 20 per cent of deaths worldwide are attributed to unhealthy food choices
Even when we step out of the front door and decide what to eat, we influence the mass media. Almost half (46 per cent) of all food and drink advertising have aimed to encourage us to buy sweets, snacks and soft drinks. On the other hand, only 2.5 percent of food and drink advertising spending on fruit and vegetables.
Data from the Broken Plate report from the Food Foundation tank – I am a trustee – shows that one in four places to buy food is fast food stores. Indeed, unhealthy options are more easily available, carefully marketed to be more attractive, and are definitely more affordable.
We know that easy access to sailing experiences and fast food shops is related to the likelihood of overweight or obese. We also know that there are often more deprived areas of such stores than richer neighborhoods.
Another problem is that choices are taken by the fact that unhealthy foods, calories for calories, are three times cheaper than healthy options.
We need a massive systematic change but we will not get this without a Government vision. There must also be leadership of the food industry. Companies can no longer claim that they provide for customer demand: they must play a vital role in compiling that demand.
We are urgently asking for measures to put pressure on the balance in favor of healthy food. We need to give the best to market unhealthy food for children and channel that creative energy to healthy products. Our post-Brexit agricultural policy should include public money for the marketing of fruit and vegetables.
As for fast food stores and chain retailers, they must commit to offering healthier products. Redesigning VAT on food to favor healthier choices would help make better foods more affordable, so it would lead to the promotion of prices on unhealthy products.
Already, many initiatives are leading the way. The Dutch Marqt supermarket chain, for example, became the country's first to ban marketing unhealthy products for children. And this year, the Veg Power Food Institute launched and the ITV #EatThemToDefeatThem advertising campaign for children to eat more vegetables.
All of this shows that radical change is possible. But up to law makers, who have withdrawn from a food policy, to act. The Government and the food industry must join each other to tackle a scandal that could have a fatal effect on our lives.