The Government has been accused of taking a “leisurely approach” to tackling food obesity by a parliamentary committee as it refused to commission a report exploring taxing food with high levels of sugar and salt.
The government said it “does not consider that now is the right time to introduce new taxes that will push up the cost of food”.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee chair Sir Robert Goodwill said: “We are disappointed that in the midst of an obesity crisis, the Government is taking a leisurely approach to tackling unhealthy eating habits.”
Another issue the report brought up was the Government’s decision to delay for a third time the proposed ban on volume price promotions for high-fat, sugar and salt foods (HFSS).
The government said it had delayed the ban because it believed such a move could have raised food prices, however it admitted the move would delay progress on obesity.
“Delaying the volume price promotion restrictions to October 2025 will result in additional years for the health benefits to start to accrue,” the government said. “However, over the long term, we still expect these measures to have a significant impact on obesity.
“We believe this is the best approach to tackle the long-term problem of obesity, while recognising the current challenges caused by higher food prices.”
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The Committee’s Food Security report also highlighted concerns that the government “does not adequately track food security, at either the household or the national level”.
In the government’s response today, it refused to make any commitments to annual updates on food security, a decision that prompted the committee to accuse the government of having “an incoherent approach to food policy”.
The announcement comes amid preparation for next week’s annual Global Food Security Summit, to be held by the UK and chaired by prime minister Rishi Sunak.
Earlier this week, the prime minister conducted a major reshuffle of the cabinet that led to the introduction of a new secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the 5th Defra leader in 5 years.