Liz Truss has launched a review of England’s anti-obesity strategy as part of a wider deregulation initiative which the new Prime Minister says will boost economic growth.
Boris Johnson, his predecessor, unveiled a sweeping package of measures to curb the consumption of unhealthy food and drink, despite backing out of several of his plans this year.
Under pressure from right-wing Tory MPs, Johnson delayed proposals for a year, including a ban on one-time deals and a ban on TV adverts for unhealthy food and drink before 9 p.m. They were due to come into force next month.
Johnson also rejected a recommendation for a new tax on sugar and salt in food put forward by a review of England’s food strategy by Henry Dimbleby, founder of the Leon restaurant chain.
Truss is now set to drop delayed anti-obesity plans altogether, after telling the Daily Mail during the Tory leadership race that she would scrap the ban on buy-one-get-one deals -free and would reject any new “nanny state”. levies on unhealthy foods.
“These taxes are over,” she said last month. “[People] I don’t want the government telling them what to eat.
A Whitehall official said the government had commissioned an internal review of obesity policy “in light of the unprecedented global economic situation”.
Some officials fear the Truss review could spur ministers to scrap a sugar tax on soft drinks that was put in place in 2018, or roll back a recent requirement for large restaurants, cafes and pubs in display meal calories on their menus.
Truss’s review is part of a deregulation initiative by the new prime minister which aims to speed up the rollout of new infrastructure, make the planning system in England more efficient and cut rules for businesses broadly.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the new chancellor, has ordered officials to focus all their energies on boosting annual economic growth to 2.5% as he prepares to unveil a mini tax cut budget this week next.
Truss’ deregulation campaign has delighted some free market activists, such as John O’Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance.
“Rejection of these nanny state policies is long overdue,” he said. “Plans to end buy one, get one free [deals] would only weigh on hard-hit households during a cost-of-living crisis.
But the Obesity Health Alliance, a campaign group seeking to reduce obesity, said it was “deeply concerned” about “reckless” plans to abandon Johnson-era measures.
“It will not help the cost of living crisis in the short term, and in the long term would have serious consequences for our health, our economy and our NHS,” he added.
“Big multinationals promote and advertise unhealthy food and drink to low-income people, leading to increased obesity, inequality and pressure on the NHS to address obesity. resulting poor health, such as cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”
A Tory MP expressed dismay at Truss’ review, saying: ‘Diabetes is incredibly expensive for the NHS. . . we have one of the highest diabetes-related amputation rates in the world.