Is Labour’s plan to cap levels of fat, sugar, and salt in food marketed to children a good idea?

One third of children are now overweight or obese (Source: Getty)

Luciana Berger, shadow minister for public health, says Yes

With one third of children now overweight or obese, we’re in the midst of an obesity crisis that is placing a burden on our NHS that we can’t afford. At the same time, children are being bombarded with junk food marketing especially designed to target them ­– and which lies behind the pestering that parents endure.

Labour doesn’t think this is right. Our proposal would mean that companies would not be able to use these techniques on some of their most unhealthy products. Of course, it’s parents who decide what their children should and shouldn’t eat, but government has a clear role to play in tackling the barriers that make it more difficult for them to make healthy choices.

Surveys have shown that three quarters of parents want government to do more to protect children from junk food marketing. Unlike this government, Labour isn’t afraid to stand on the side of parents and do what is right to protect the health of our children and secure the future of our NHS.

Chris Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, says No

This policy could only be justified if there was a market failure, but there’s an abundance of low calorie, fat and sugar alternatives for consumers to choose from.

These “healthier” options are on the same shelves – and at the same price – as their more calorific cousins. Don’t want Frosties? Have Corn Flakes. Don’t want Coke? Have Coke Zero. No one can seriously claim that people have no choice but to buy the fattiest, sugariest products on the shelves. What annoys Labour is not that we have no choice, but that we exercise our choice by buying Coco Pops when we could buy muesli.

Irked by our intransigence, they’ve decided to make the “unhealthy” choices illegal. Don’t let the talk of protecting children fool you. This isn’t about children’s food. It will apply to any product the government thinks is “marketed substantially to children”. As we’ve seen with tobacco, that can be very widely defined.

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