How the Childhood Obesity Plan went wrong

What happened to the government’s childhood obesity strategy in the 36 days after Prime Minister Teresa May came to power?

That’s the question that this week’s Dispatches (Channel 4, 31 October) posed as it compared the two obesity strategies prepared by May and her predecessor David Cameron.

The programme managed to get hold of a leaked copy of Cameron’s strategy, a 37-page action plan that would have, in the words of campaigner Jamie Oliver: “Bravely committed to halving England’s childhood obesity levels within 10 years.”

In comparison, May’s plan was quietly buried under the press excitement of A Level results day and had deleted great swathes of the original plan, including tougher restrictions on marketing junk food to children.

The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, declined to comment when asked by the programme to explain the differences between the two strategies. Teresa May’s office released a statement, which read: “The government has intentionally taken a careful and measured approach, which will reduce obesity…these steps will make a real difference to help reverse a problem that has been decades in the making, but we have not ruled out further action if the right results are not seen.”

Campaigners including Oliver, Olympic rower James Cracknell and Chair of lobbying group Action on Sugar, Professor Graham MacGregor are all sceptical about how much action this “watered-down” strategy will achieve.

Professor MacGregor said: ” She [Teresa May] unveiled a Childhood Obesity Plan that should have reigned in the food industry, but instead decimated proposals that have been put forward.”

You can read more about this topic, and an interview with Graham MacGregor, in the next issue of our print magazine, available from end November. Subscribe here to get your copy.