Saturday, May 14, 2011

Prof Sugarman's ideas to reduce obesity rates

I had the opportunity to attend a seminar arranged by The National Heart Forum to hear the law professor Stephen Sugarman explain his approach to reducing diet related deaths in the UK. Put very simply he is called for performance based regulations that sees industry take responsibility for making the changes.

Rather than focusing on individuals to make different choices which are hard to keep up in the face of constant marketing and availability Sugarman suggests legislation which requires retailers and fast food/chain restaurants to reduce the amount of high fat, salt sugar products that they sell, based on industry averages so forward thinking companies don't get penalised.

There would be heavy fines which would give companies a genuine urge to unleash their creativity on how they could reformulate and move into healthier markets with rewards given for successes. Can you imagine what supermarkets and fast food restaurants would look like if they were actually really trying their hardest to shift more furit and veg? We certainly see a lot more appetising fruit displays by the checkouts thats for sure!

Sugarman thinks the fact that there is so few companies who provide the majority of our food would make it much easier to achieve. In addition the barcode technology we have would make this easy to monitor.

He went on to suggest the food industry will absolutely hate the idea and will scream blue murder and rush out more and more voluntary guidelines in an attempt to avoid this. However he promises he is happy to walk away from litigation and lawsuits in return.

What I like about his ideas is that we wouldn't need to micro manage it. If companies had a clear financial incentive to reduce HFSS foods sold year on year they would find innovate and creative ways to do it.

Unfortunately though persuading the government to do it is another matter. This current mob are already jumping to the demands of the food industry. if we do ever get a government that puts the health needs of the population before the profits of a the industry we have some great ideas to discuss. You can have a look at Prof Sugarmans ideas here.