Blair threatens food and drinks industry with legislation

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has virtually given the food and drinks industry in the UK an ultimatum saying unless the "junk food" industry can sort itself out it will be forced to restrict advertising to children next year.

Mr Blair delivered his strongest threat yet to manufacturers and warned that it would be much better if the industry comes together voluntarily regarding public health but says the government is prepared to act if the voluntary system does not work.

The Government it seems is prepared to use legislation to enforce clear labelling of content such as fat and salt, and wants tougher measures to curb under-age drinking.

But Mr Blair stressed that while ministers could create the environment for individuals to take the "healthy option", they could not "make choices" for them, and people must take responsibility for their own health.

Mr Blair says that a failure to address lifestyles issues puts an "increasing strain" on the NHS, and hinders the quest to reduce social inequalities.

The government is working on a code with the food industry on limiting the advertising of junk food to children, but Blair says if by 2007, the voluntary code has not worked, they will make it mandatory.

Mr Blair said popular support for the smoking ban, and recent moves to improve the quality of school meals, had convinced him that state intervention worked.

It seems the broadcasting regulator Ofcom has been working with the food industry on ways to limit children's exposure to junk food ads, but television channels are thought to oppose a pre-watershed ban on adverts because of the potentially huge reduction in advertising revenue.

According to Tony Blair consumers want a "single clear system" to inform them about the health value of the food they are buying in the shops.

Major retailers such as Sainsbury's, ASDA, the Co-op, Boots and Waitrose have indicated they will use a labelling system put forward by the Food Standards Agency, but others have expressed misgivings.

Blair says health care cannot be just about treating the sick but must be about helping people to live healthily, otherwise the NHS will be unable in future to keep pace with the state of the country's health.

Mr Blair says the Labour Government has "explicitly" abandoned the "paternalistic" state of the post-war years, because current public health problems are in fact problems involving questions of individual lifestyle such as obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, diabetes, and sexually transmitted disease.

Mr Blair says individual actions were leading to "collective costs" and is urging the nation to take more responsibility for its own health.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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