Sugar, fat and salt: when food causes disease

What is the problem?

The number of people who are overweight or obese has increased dramatically over recent decades. Between 1980 and 2008 the worldwide prevalence of obesity nearly doubled. The main reason for this development: when it comes to food, the unhealthy choice is all too often the easy choice. High-calorie, highly processed and sugary foods are cheap, abundant and widely available. Roughly 90% of all foods and drinks that are marketed to children are high in fat, sugar and/or salt. Governments and food companies are promoting behavioural prevention through education and information programmes. However, these strategies have proved ineffective in preventing obesity.

What is the solution?

In order to promote healthier diets we need to literally change the food environment: the healthy choice has to become the first and easiest choice. Instead of voluntary commitments, we need a framework of statutory regulations: 

  1. A ban on advertising junk foods to children would help prevent young people from developing unhealthy food preferences.
  2. An effective levy on sweetened beverages following the UK's example would provide an incentive for soft drinks companies to reformulate their products.
  3. Mandatory traffic light labelling on the front of food packages, based on strict thresholds for sugar, fat and salt, would enable consumers to make informed buying decisions.

What is foodwatch doing?

foodwatch is campaigning for a shift from industry self-regulation (voluntary commitments) to statutory regulation, e.g. on marketing, taxation and labelling practices in the food sector. Policymakers need to realise that the food industry, and especially the soft drinks industry, is not a reliable partner, but instead a threat to public health. foodwatch seeks to hold the industry accountable for the health impacts of its products.

Last update June 19, 2017