Children eating equivalent of three sugar lumps at breakfast, says head of NHS England.
Food manufacturers will have to reformulate the way they produce breakfast cereals if the government’s obesity strategy is to succeed, the head of the NHS in England has warned.
Giving evidence to the Commons health and social care committee, Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, said it was “very concerning” that products marketed as healthy often contained large amounts of sugar.
“On average children are having the equivalent of three sugar lumps at breakfast. For poorer children that is often much worse. That is obviously contributing a lot to the childhood obesity epidemic,” he said.
The government’s childhood obesity plan published last month set out a range of measures – including a ban on supermarket checkout promotionsinvolving sweets and fatty snacks – intended to halve childhood obesity in England by 2030.
However, Mr Stevens told the committee they also needed to look at the ingredients that went into products such a breakfast cereals.
“Calorie labelling, traffic-lighting, changed promotional approaches in the retail sector – they have all got to play their part,” he said.
“But I think we are going to need to see much greater action on food reformulation over the next several years in the way that we have begun to see on sugar, sweets and beverages.
“If we don’t get that then it will be obvious that we are not going to be on track for the childhood obesity goals that the government has rightly set. There needs to be a wake-up call for food manufacturers.
“It obviously matters for the NHS, but frankly it matters to us as parents. It is our children who are inadvertently on the receiving end of what you think is a healthy breakfast cereal but often turns out not to be.
“We can change that and we need to.”