As a personal trainer with clients in London who are parents of obese children, my ears pricked up during last night’s Channel 4 News.
James Cracknell, double Olympic gold medalist rower, is campaigning to tackle childhood obesity. He calls for a sugar tax, and also intervention by primary schools to ensure obese kids are supported to lose their excess weight.
This comes at a time when the government has delayed yet again its National Obesity Framework, probably due to heavy lobbying by the food & drink industry.
James Cracknell is also keen for the food industry to adopt the teaspoon labelling system, showing how many teaspoons of sugar are in each product. A representative of the Food & Drink Federation was in the studio, trying to rubbish the campaign and putting forward a range of ludicrous objections to James Cracknell’s plans.
Among the crazier arguments of the Food & Drink Federation are that teaspoons are all different sizes, so consumers would be confused by this method of labelling. The other argument regularly trotted out is that sugar calories are no different from fat calories, which is complete nonsense. Sugar causes insulin spikes and increases the risk of diabetes, excess sugar is stored as toxic body-fat, and sugar is an anti-nutrient which is not only devoid of micronutrients, it leeches micronutrients from the body.
The job of the Food & Drink Federation is to represent the interests of the food industry, so it’s not surprising that they are downplaying the risks of sugar consumption at every opportunity.
The channel 4 news report focused on Brighton council’s sugar smart city initiative, the first UK city council to tackle sugar addiction in a serious and proactive way. Louisa Scanlon from the Public Health Schools Programme explained that schools in Brighton were introducing food education, and discussing the dangers of excess sugar with pupils.
Restaurants in Brighton are adopting a 10p sugar levy on sugary drinks, and offering more healthy options. Michael Bremner of 64 Degrees restaurant is one such owner to adopt this policy.
Come on David Cameron, introduce a sugar tax and make a real impact in the fight against childhood obesity.
Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London and author of the Fitness4London.com blog.