Today the Government unveiled its new strategy to tackle obesity in England.

The strategy sets out several new measures, including:

  • a ban of advertising foods high in fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS) before 21:00;
  • restrictions on in-store promotions of HFSS foods, such as ending ‘buy one, get one free’; and
  • new rules for displaying calorie information on menus.

In a press release to promote the new strategy, the Government emphasises that the measures aim to “to get the nation fit and healthy, protect themselves against COVID-19 and protect the NHS.”

We welcome the new measures, several of which are in line with the findings and recommendations of our 2007 public health report, and our responses to public consultations since the publication of that report.

Our public health report takes the position that the state has a duty to provide conditions that allow people to lead healthy lives. It presents an ‘intervention ladder’ as a useful way of thinking about the acceptability and justification of different public health policies. Any intervention should be proportionate to the aim it intends to achieve, and should be supported by evidence. Interventions that are higher up the ladder are more intrusive and therefore require stronger justification.

Obesity remains a serious public health threat in the UK 13 years after the publication of our public health report. The Government is ethically justified to intervene through evidence-based measures to tackle this issue to protect the health of its citizens. Evidence collection around the new policies will be crucial to judge their effectiveness in the years to come.

We will be monitoring any developments to this policy as more evidence becomes available.