Labour will ban children's favourite fatty foods and make alcohol more expensive

 
Guy Bentley
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Labour will set maximum limits on the amount of fat, salt and sugar that will be allowed (Source: Getty)

Labour will ban a host of fatty foods and make some kinds of alcohol more expensive if it wins the next election.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham will outline a series of proposals in a speech later today, setting out Labour's policy on public health. A Labour government will set maximum limits on the amount of fat, salt and sugar that will be allowed in foods marketed to children.

These include crisps and cereals that are, of course, not exclusively consumed by children. Food labelling will also be on the agenda but may run into trouble at EU level if Labour gets back into power.

Burnham will say:

Children need better protection from the pressures of modern living and the harm caused by alcohol, sugar and smoke.

It's not just crisps and sweets in the firing line for Labour legislation. Low-cost, high-strength alcohol will also be targeted, with minimum unit pricing and bottle sizes in the running as policy options.

There will be no let-up for smokers as Labour promises to introduce plain packaging of cigarettes to stop what the party calls the tobacco industry's "sophisticated methods of recruiting new, young smokers".

Burnham's ambition is to make children born in 2015 the first "smoke-free generation".

Criticism of the speech is coming in thick and fast, with opponents saying the measures are a draconian overreach of government power and a reminder of Labour's penchant for nanny state policies.

Kate Andrews, communications manager at the Adam Smith Institute, said:

Meddling in people's lifestyle choices can backfire: in Australia, the only country to have tried plain cigarette packaging, household expenditure on tobacco has actually increased, and there is mounting evidence that smokers have turned to even more harmful black market products.

Andrews argued some of the proposals will end up being regressive:

Targeting "low-cost alcohol" hits the poor much harder than the rich, and has virtually no effect on problem drinkers, who are the least sensitive to price hikes. If Labour raise taxes on booze it will end up hurting moderate drinkers on low incomes the most.

Others have warned Burnham's approach will fail to lead to the desired outcomes and will be unworkable.

Christopher Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

It's a noble goal for children to lead healthier lifestyles, but paternalistic initiatives such as this aren't the best way. Limiting food marketed to children will be unenforceable. Healthy alternatives exist; we have cornflakes if you want Frosties without the sugar.

We need to educate both children and parents, but regulation isn't always the best answer.

Indeed, some of Labour's own grown-ups may not be practicing what they preach.

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