British Children Getting Shorter, Fatter, And Sicker: Report

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by Tyler Durden
Sunday, Jun 23, 2024 - 12:10 PM

Authored by Rachel Roberts via The Epoch Times,

The authors of a damning report into children’s health have called on the next government to do more to tackle the soaring level of obesity in youngsters, which they say is a “ticking timebomb” for a lifetime of illness and comes at a huge cost to both the state and the individual.

The report by The Food Foundation charity, released on Wednesday, concludes that “aggressive” marketing of cheap, ultra-processed food together with diets lacking nutrition—often fuelled by poverty as well as the food industry—are behind a “significant decline” in children’s health.

It finds that British children have been getting shorter, on average, since 2013, after being on an upward trajectory since 2000. While acknowledging that ethnicity plays a role in height, the report says data suggest the decline is more down to dietary deficiencies than to shifting demographics.

Meanwhile, obesity levels in 10- and 11-year-olds have increased by 30 percent since 2006, while Type 2 diabetes in the under-25s has increased by 22 percent in the past five years.

Anna Taylor, executive director at The Food Foundation, said in a statement: “The health problems being suffered by the UK’s children due to poor diet are entirely preventable.

“Politicians across the political spectrum must prioritise policies that give all children access to the nutrition they need to grow up healthily, as should be their right.”

Childhood Obesity Could Cost £8 Billion

Experts suggest current levels of childhood obesity could cost the country in the region of £8 billion through the burden on the NHS and the benefits system if a larger percentage of the population ends up unfit for work.

The Food Foundation has its own “election manifesto” urging incoming MPs to do more to ensure that good quality food is more readily available and affordable to all, as it says obesity and food related illnesses are preventable.

Overall life expectancy as well as the number of quality years of good health a baby can expect to live when born will continue to fall without radical change, the authors predict.

The “aggressive promotion of cheap junk food” and levels of food insecurity caused by poverty and deprivation mean that children are living in an environment that makes feeding them healthily an “almost impossibly difficult challenge,” the authors claim.

Food inflation and the cost-of-living crisis have exacerbated the problem, they said, as they called for action to “reverse the current trajectory.”

Jools Oliver and Jamie Oliver attend the Headline Gala Screening of 20th Century Studios "The Bikeriders" during the 67th BFI London Film Festival at the Royal Festival Hall in London on Oct. 5, 2023. (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Disney)

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who spearheaded a campaign for healthier school lunches in 2005, said on social media platform X that children are “not being given the chance to be happy, healthy people. And they deserve so much more than that.

“There’s no silver bullet to fix this, which is why we need a comprehensive approach that doesn’t just tinker around the edges but revolutionises the rules and fundamentally improves the quality of food across the board. The leader who understands this and gets serious about child health will be the person who turned the tide on obesity – and won.”

The Food Foundation says that its mission is to “change food policy and business practice to ensure everyone, across the UK nations, can afford and access a healthy and sustainable diet.”

It is calling for legislation around around food standards, mandatory reporting for food businesses on “health and sustainability,” and a new “horticultural strategy” to boost fruit and vegetable production in the UK.

Charity Would Like Free School Meals for All

The charity is calling for free school meals for all children whose parents receive Universal Credit, and eventually for all children, regardless of parental income. It also wants to update school food standards and to introduce “compliance monitoring.”

The charity has called on law makers to “stop the junk food cycle” and claims that British children are exposed to 15 billion junk food adverts a year, with ultra-processed foods—including vegan ones—linked to heart disease and cancer.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to ban the advertising of junk food to children and the sale of high caffeine energy drinks to under-16s, as well as promising to introduce free breakfast clubs for all children.

Ms. Taylor said these pledges could be “good quick wins for any new government, but significantly more will be needed to meet Labour’s ambitious aim to ‘raise the healthiest generation of children in our history.'”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has also pledged to bring in the ban on junk food advertising—which the government delayed—and a commitment to reform the food system by ensuring half of all food expenditure in public procurement is spent on food produced locally or to higher environmental standards.

Ms. Taylor said, “The proposal for a legally binding target to enhance the UK’s food security could offer a framework to more widely improve our food system, but without any details of this, this manifesto does not offer the systemic change needed to ensure everybody in the UK can access a healthy and sustainable diet.”