Britain taking ‘leisurely’ approach to tackling obesity, say lawmakers

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government is taking a “leisurely” approach to tackling unhealthy eating habits and needs to do more to make sure people can get hold of good, affordable food, lawmakers said on Friday.

The members of a cross-party committee said they were particularly disappointed by the government’s refusal to commit to commissioning a report looking into the possibility of taxing food with high levels of sugar and salt.

The lawmakers from the lower house of parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee criticised much of the government’s response to a report on food security and obesity they had published in July.

“We are disappointed that in the midst of an obesity crisis, the Government is taking a leisurely approach to tackling unhealthy eating habits,” committee chairman Robert Goodwill, from the ruling Conservative party, said.

“We are also concerned that current Government measures do not adequately track food security, at either the household or the national level.”

The committee on Friday published the government’s formal response to its July report – which had said around 40% of Britain’s adult population were set to be obese by 2035.

In response to the committee’s call for an impact assessment into the introduction of a sugar and salt reformulation tax, the government said it “does not consider that now is the right time to introduce new taxes that will push up the cost of food”.

The July report had also expressed regret that the government’s ban on stores offering bulk-buy discount deals on unhealthy food and drinks had been delayed for a third time, until October 2025.

The government responded that it had delayed the ban because it believed such a move could have raised the cost of living further.

The lawmakers had also called for an annually updated UK Food Security Report, together with an annual Food Security Summit chaired by the prime minister, to track Britons’ ability to access and afford healthy food.

But in its response, the government made no commitment to any annual updates on food security.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Andrew Heavens)