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Cost of obesity 'spirals' amid upturn in ad spend

12 October 2017 14:56

One in four British adults is obese

One in four British adults is obese

Millions of pounds spent on junk food advertising is prompting NHS obesity costs to soar into the billions, a health coalition warns.

Its research shows that in Britain, more than £143 million is spent each year by 18 of the top-spending brands that sell so-called unhealthy products.

Meanwhile, £5.1 billion is being spent tackling obesity-related health conditions.

The analysis into spending has been conducted by the Obesity Health Alliance, a group of 40 health organisations and charities - including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Surgeons and Cancer Research UK.

Health initiative 'dwarfed'

A quarter of adults in the UK are obese, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Despite the spiralling NHS costs, the Government has spent just £5.2 million on its flagship healthy eating programme.

With junk food marketing totalling 27.5 times more, the spending on the initiative is "dwarfed" by the advertising budgets of crisp, confectionery and sugary drinks brands.

OHA spokeswoman Caroline Cerny said: "Junk food companies are spending tens of millions of pounds a year on promoting their products. Government healthy eating campaigns can't possibly compete.

"There's only ever going to be one winner, so it's not surprising that the cost of obesity both to people's health, the NHS and wider society, is spiralling out of control. Something needs to be done urgently to redress the balance."

People with health problems caused by their size can take out medical travel insurance when they go abroad.

Protect children

The coalition is urging the Government to protect children from exposure to junk food promotion, and impose a 9pm watershed on TV adverts that promote unhealthy foods, snacks and drinks.

However, a government spokesman says Britain's advertising restrictions on junk food are among "the toughest in the world".

"We are absolutely committed to tackling childhood obesity and supporting people to make healthy choices," he said.