The government is ‘underachieving’ in its bid to improve public health and encourage healthy eating, Which? says today.
That’s our verdict two years on from the launch of the government’s Food and Health Action Plan.
Our report card on its progress in four key areas has found that while ministers are trying hard, they need to do better.
When it comes to ensuring simplified food labelling, we mark the government nine out of ten for effort but just six out of ten for achievement.
Traffic light labelling
This is because while several food retailers and manufacturers have adopted the Food Standard Agency’s traffic light labelling scheme, many have simply ignored it.
Robust research confirms the usefulness of the traffic light scheme and the government must do more to encourage others to follow suit.
The government does less well when it comes to advertising food to children and scores just three out of ten for achievement.
The government has still not published clear success criteria for action in this area. Ofcom’s timetable on TV advertising restrictions has severely slipped and we believe its final proposals for restricting junk food advertising will have a limited effect.
There has also been little progress for tackling other forms of non-broadcast promotions and overall it’s been an extremely disappointing performance.
In the area of working with the food industry to reduce fat, sugar and salt, Which? scores the government eight out of ten for effort but just three out of ten for achievement.
Although targets for salt consumption were published in March 2006, targets for sugar, fat and portion targets are still undecided. More progress is crucial in this area.
However one area where the government has performed well is school meals.
Excellent progress has been made and secondary and primary school standards on the nutritional content of school meals were delivered in time, although these must now be monitored closely.
Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies says: ‘Although the government is trying hard, it is still underachieving and failing to reach its own targets. School meals are the star pupil but we need real progress in the other areas.
‘We would like to see the government realise its potential and step in regarding unhealthy food promotion and advertising in particular. Without more government effort in this area, children’s health will stay bottom of the class.’