In a debate following a High Court ruling that the UK is breaking international law with toxic levels of air pollution, I said:
“The Minister talked about nuts and sledgehammers and there being no need for a comprehensive plan, but does she not agree that she needs a proper fiscal strategy to incentivise consumers and producers so that we have a sustainable future, with an infrastructure of hydrogen and electric and a commitment to EU air quality standards, yet she has given us none of those things?”
This week’s High Court ruling highlights again the urgency of cleaning up the air we breathe. 40,000 premature deaths each year, as well as millions of pounds worth of NHS cost, are caused by air pollution in the UK. This year the Royal College of Physicians revealed that air pollution harms foetal development and can cause lung and heart disease as well as asthma. This is a public disaster which the Government must act on – to stop breaking the law, to save money and ultimately save lives.
I have presented the Air Quality Bill to Parliament with cross-party support. This Bill aims to save thousands of lives and billions of pounds in healthcare costs through giving more powers to local authorities to establish low emissions zones and pedestrian-only areas, and to additionally promote the development of trams, buses and taxis powered by electricity or hydrogen in designated areas for the purpose of improving air quality.
Sugar Bill supported by Royal College of Physicians and Cancer Research would save Britain £Billions
The new Sugar Bill, to be published tomorrow in Parliament, tackles the underlying causes of obesity inadequately addressed in the Government’s so-called Obesity Strategy
The Bill is supported by the Royal College of Physicians and Cancer Research has been presented by Labour MP Geraint Davies.
Said Geraint Davies MP
"The UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe with 1 in 4 adults obese and nearly 2 in 3 adults overweight, and four million with type two diabetes.
Obesity costs the NHS £16 billion a year through diabetes, heart disease and cancer and costs the economy £47 billion. That’s why we must confront hidden sugar in processed food and drinks as it is a major cause of millions of deaths costing billions of pounds.
"The World Health Organisation says sugar intake should not exceed 5% of energy - 9 teaspoons for men (a can of Coke) or 6 for women (a light yoghurt)- yet the average person in Britain consumes twice that amount and teenagers three times. Overconsumption of sugar is due to manufacturers secretly adding it to our processed food and accounts for our growing diabetes epidemic.
“The Sugar Bill therefore requires that added sugar is labelled in teaspoonfuls on processed foods so consumers are empowered to choose healthier options and manufacturers incentivised to compete to reduce added sugar instead of competing by adding sugar.
"Such labelling is allowed and encouraged to be introduced by national governments by EU legislation despite the Food manufacturers claiming otherwise. The Conservative Government is putting business interests ahead of public health and should instead act decisively to curb this unnecessary loss of life that is bleeding the NHS dry.
Supported by Cancer Research and the RCP the Sugar in Food and Drinks Bill (attached) will:
- require processed food and drink to have added sugar content labelled in teaspoons
- extend the restrictions on television advertising of high sugar foods until after the 9.00pm watershed
· require the Government to publish targets for the total amount of sugar consumed in the UK
The Bill follows research concluding that obesity has a greater burden on the UK economy than armed violence, war and terrorism, costing us £47bn each year (McKinsey). Type 2 diabetes is already costing NHS England £9bn and NHS Wales £0.5bn each year. Obesity rates in Britain have increased to the second highest in Europe (after Hungary) and two thirds of people are either overweight (42% men & 32% women) or obese. In Swansea, 21% of adults are obese.
Said Geraint Davies MP
“I’ll be meeting Jeremy Hunt to say that if he’s serious about having a sustainable health service he should tackle the root cause of growing obesity – unrestricted added sugar in processed food and drinks – and give consumers the power to make healthy choices. Instead he seems to be on the side of big business making money out of feeding the nation junk food secretly impregnated with dangerous levels of sugar."
Jamie Oliver, who supports the move to label sugar content in teaspoonfuls said “ I am massively passionate that British people, if given clear information, make good choices. Not all the time, but a lot."
The Bill, is supported by Cancer Research UK who report that 74% of the public back a ban on junk food advertising before 9pm.
Professor Robert Lustig whose work has explained this link said "The food industry argues that a calorie is a calorie, a sugar is a sugar, and if you're fat it's your fault. But the science says that the excess sugar placed in our food is toxic and addictive. How can we exercise personal responsibility when the information is kept from us? Mr. Davies has introduced a rational proposal to limit this practice, to reduce the consumption of unnecessary sugar, and to educate the populace as to what they are consuming so that they can make informed choices"
Today I presented the Sugar in Food and Drinks Bill in parliament. The Bill moves beyond the Childhood Obesity Strategy published last month with recommendations to tackle the health risks and rising costs to the nation from obesity.
The Bill calls on the Government to set targets for sugar content, to label how many teaspoons of added sugar is in food so consumers can make informed choices, and to extend the advertising ban on high sugar content foods until after the 9pm watershed.
Added sugar in processed food and drinks is a major cause of obesity. The World Health Organisation recommends that added sugar should make up no more than 5% of our daily food intake which is equivalent to just 9 teaspoons for men (a can of coke) and 6 for women (a light yoghurt) but on average children and adults in the UK are consuming twice that amount, with teenagers consuming three times the recommended level. This has a dramatic effect on the health of the nation with two thirds people in the UK classified overweight or obese, including a third of all children leaving primary school.
Talking to stakeholders from across the food industry, government and the third sector there is a gathering momentum to take action on sugar.
Yesterday Jamie Oliver condemned the August publication of the Government’s low-key Childhood Obesity strategy was ‘failing our children’.
I agree with Jamie Oliver that Theresa May has failed to tackle the root causes of obesity to protect the next generation from shortened lives due to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I know that he, along with parents and health professionals, will support the proposals in my Bill to require labelling of sugar content in teaspoons to allow consumers to make informed choices to maintain a healthy diet, and to increase the restrictions on advertising of high sugar content ‘junk’ foods until after the watershed to prevent children from being exposed to harmful advertising whilst watching family programmes.
I will continue to push for stricter advertising and greater transparency from manufacturers to drive a reduction in the sugar content in food products, and to help consumers choose a healthier diet and a safer future. Sugar labelled in spoonfuls is simple to understand so consumers can navigate towards a healthier diet and producers are incentivised to compete on adding less instead of more sugar.