UK – The House of Lords Committee on Food, Diet, and Obesity has initiated an inquiry into the impact of foods categorized as ultra-processed and those high in fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS) on diet-related health issues and the prevalence of obesity.

The committee is seeking written submissions from interested individuals and organizations to gather insights on these matters.

Formed in January 2024, the committee aims to deliver its report by November 30, 2024, focusing on the effects of HFSS and ultra-processed foods on health outcomes within the UK.

It will also examine changes in dietary behaviors and assess the influence of government policies on these trends. Additionally, the committee will evaluate the role of the food and beverage industry in shaping public health initiatives.

Key areas of investigation include defining HFSS and ultra-processed foods and their utility in describing and evaluating such products. The committee will also analyze the food industry’s influence on dietary trends and policymaking processes.

Furthermore, it will scrutinize the effectiveness of government planning and policymaking strategies in combating obesity, along with assessing recent policy developments and legislative measures in this area.

In the coming weeks, the committee will hear oral evidence from prominent figures in the health and nutrition sector, including Henry Dimbleby, Dr. Chris van Tulleken, Anna Taylor of the Food Foundation, Katharine Jenner from the Obesity Health Alliance, and Fran Bernhardt from Sustain.

Interested parties can contribute evidence to the committee by submitting written submissions before the deadline on April 8, 2024.

Action against obesity

As the second most common preventable cause of cancer, obesity costs the National Health Service (NHS) approximately £6.5 billion (U.S$8.2 billion) annually.

In England, obesity affects more than one in four people (26%) and 23.4% of children ages 10 to 11; this puts a tremendous burden on the health and care systems.

A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more is typically used to identify obesity. “Overweight” is defined as having a BMI of 25 to 30.

In an interview with the Department of Health and Social Care Media Center, the NHS stated that it has already implemented a number of obesity-fighting initiatives.

These include enacting legislation to limit the placement of foods high in fat, sugar, or salt in supermarkets to lower the likelihood of impulse purchases, introducing the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which has eliminated the equivalent of over 45,000 tonnes of sugar from soft drinks since its introduction, and introducing calorie labeling to empower people to make informed decisions.

The NHS intends to outlaw the promotion of less healthful products online and on television before the watershed, which occurs from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., starting in October 2025.

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