Dental professionals are being urged to name and shame food outlets that promote cheap sweets and fizzy drinks, making them more accessible to kids.
The new campaign by the British Dental Association (BDA) is in a bid to slash the excessive amount of sugar children in the UK have which currently impacts on their oral health.
The ‘Make a meal of it’ campaign, launched last week, proposes restrictions on the availability and advertising of such products.
The campaign includes a link to a supermarket ‘wall of shame’ on the BDA website which features ‘checkouts checked out’ and lists key offenders.
There are also template letters available to dentists to send to food outlets which outlines why promotion of unhealthy food is affecting the nation.
Part of the letter reads: ‘On a recent visit to your store, I noticed that confectionery and fizzy drinks were prominently displayed around the checkouts. I would like to suggest that these should be replaced with healthy alternatives. As a dentist I see the impact every day that sugary and acidic food and drink can have on oral health. I am particularly concerned about the impact on the oral health of our children. Displays of such products at checkouts promote their consumption to children, and I would urge you to reconsider your presentation of these products.’
The BDA is also supporting a specific tax on sugary, carbonated drinks.
The campaign seeks to encourage:
• Supermarkets to restrict the availability of unhealthy foods at checkouts
• Cinemas to downsize their unhealthy food and drink offerings
• Schools and hospitals to withdraw unhealthy food and drink from vending machines.
The BDA is urging the dental profession to pinpoint local examples of outlets that are putting profits before health and help to challenge them.
The launch of the campaign coincided with a government initiative to encourage people to eat more healthily.
The ‘traffic light’ coding food system is a new consistent 'front of pack' nutritional label and has been adopted by key food manufacturers and major retailers, including MARS UK, Nestle UK, PepsiCo UK, Premier Foods, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ASDA, Morrisons, the Co-operative and Waitrose.
The thinking behind the move is that people will now find it easier to make healthier choices about the food they eat and will, at a glance, be able to compare the same kinds of foods to seek a healthier option.
Meanwhile, the BDA is also seeking support for a government e-petition it has launched which calls for a more rigorous approach to tackling the problem.
Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser to the BDA, said: 'Despite a steady improvement to oral health in recent years an unacceptable number of children in the UK still suffer with tooth decay, which we must remember is an entirely preventable condition. The average figures for the prevalence of decayed, missing and filled teeth mask some disturbing pockets of very poor oral health.
'Regrettably, some retailers insist on putting profits before health, disregarding the potential ill effects of their products and dangling temptation in front of children. A more responsible approach must be adopted by such organisations to help address the poor oral health that dentists see in communities across the UK. I urge all members of the dental community to get behind this campaign.'
Further details of the campaign and how to participate are available at www.bda.org/makeamealofit.
• Identify the worst-offending supermarkets, cinemas, sports centres and hospitals by reporting the promotion of drinks and snacks in locations designed to appeal to children, vending machines packed with unhealthy foods and fizzy drinks and the promotion of over-sized products on the BDA’s Make a meal of it communities web page.
• Tell us also about examples of good practice you see to help demonstrate that there is an alternative way for companies to behave
• Help the Children’s Food Campaign gather further evidence of the growing encroachment of aggressive marketing and product placement at supermarket checkouts by taking and posting photographs of bad practice on the organisation’s Wall of Shame.
Contact local outlets directly to challenge them to act more responsibly in the way they promote and display products and explain why it is so important that they do so. The BDA has produced template letters (downloadable below) to make it easier for you to do this.
Add your name to a Government e-petition the BDA has initiated calling for action to tackle the problem.