Fisn & Chips by the Sea

Marketing a Healthier Food Chain in Britain

Today, Public Health England (PHE) released a new initiative, holding food marketers responsible for helping to shape a healthier food chain by 2024. The goal? A 20 percent reduction of calories in Britain’s food supply. Within six years, manufacturers, supermarkets, fast food outlets, and other restaurants must bring bring their marketing skills to bear upon this task or face legislative action.

Business has three options for meeting these goals:

• Change recipes
• Reduce portions
• Promote less caloric, healthier options

Shaping Healthier Defaults

PHE Chief Nutritionist Alison Tedstone explained that the strategy is to create healthier norms:

It’s hard for people to make healthy food choices, whether for themselves or their families. That’s why we are challenging the food industry to take 20% of the calories out of everyday foods, building on their good work on salt and promising announcements on sugar.

We are also working through our campaign and its partners, to give the public the information they need to help make those choices easier.

The 20% reduction target comes from a careful economic analysis. PHE examined data on calorie consumption data across the population. Analysts evaluated the experience with sugar and salt reduction programmes. Meetings with advocates and food industry leaders provided further insight.

“An Excellent and Bold Step”

Surprisingly, most expert reaction to this move so far is positive. Professor Clare Collins praised the initiative, calling it “an excellent and bold step”:

This is very exciting to see such leadership. The rest of the world should be watching and follow their lead. The other positive is that they are working in partnership with industry. But they have also stepped up and not left it to a “voluntary” program. That is exactly what other countries need to do.

Caution Warranted

Obesity Society President Caroline Apovian injected a note of caution:

I agree that it is hard for people to make healthy food choices and that challenging the food industry to take 20% of the calories out of everyday foods might be a fruitful strategy. However, much is still unknown about the obesity epidemic and why it is occurring at such an alarming rate, despite efforts to reduce calorie intake and increase physical activity.

Will it work? Apovian is correct to be cautious. This strategy is sound and might have an important impact. But it won’t reverse long-established obesity trends all by itself. Careful measurement and objective evaluation of outcomes will be essential.

Nonetheless, holding businesses accountable for bringing their marketing to bear on shaping a healthier food chain is a step in the right direction.

Click here for more from PHE, here for more from BBC, and here for more from the Guardian.

Fisn & Chips by the Sea, photograph © Jefferson Siow / flickr

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March 6, 2018

2 Responses to “Marketing a Healthier Food Chain in Britain”

  1. March 06, 2018 at 8:50 pm, David Brown said:

    Susan Jebb says, “Since we can no longer just rely on our biology to control our weight, most people need some conscious control strategy. Some people seem to do this naturally, even unconsciously, but other people need to learn to do this. So my work looks at whether we can teach people who struggle with their weight some of the strategies people who seem to successfully manage their weight do innately.”

    Actually, we can usually rely on our biology to control our weight if our endocannabinoid systems are not overactivated. How does the endocannabinoid system become overactivated? “The dietary lipids typically higher in n-6 PUFA drive the formation of AEA and 2-AG and likely support excessive energy intake and weight gain. Thus, understanding how dietary fats alter ECS activity is a pertinent area of research due to public health messages promoting a shift toward terrestrial plant and vegetable oils… High circulating levels of AA-derived EC and excessive endocannabinoid production by adipocytes are associated with human obesity and fat accretion in rodents. The ECS works through many anorexigenic and orexigenic pathways where ghrelin, leptin, adiponectin, endogenous opioids, and corticotropin-releasing hormones are involved. Taken together, with the emerging role played by the ECS in obesity and with over production of the AA-derived EC prolonging stimulation of CB1 that leads to dysregulation, there is convincing evidence to focus future research on dietary PUFA and the ECS in metabolic syndrome.”

    Nearly all public health obesity experts recommend caloric restriction in addition to exchanging saturated fats for polyunsaturated oil. This is a mistake.

  2. March 08, 2018 at 2:32 pm, John DiTraglia said:

    It might contribute to less food waste too.