Dentists have slammed the health secretary’s plan to get fizzy drink manufacturers and chocolate makers to fund anti-obesity campaigns.
Companies such as Mars, Cadbury and Coca-Cola are to be invited to fund the government’s advertising campaign to persuade people to switch to a healthier lifestyle.
In return, the firms will not face new legislation outlawing excessively fatty, sugary and salty food, the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, announced.
In a move condemned by campaigners – among them the British Dental Association and the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry – the government is accused of ‘rolling over on their backs in front of the food lobby’.
Earlier this week, Mr Lansley told a conference of public health experts that he wanted a new partnership with food and drink firms.
In exchange for a ‘non-regulatory approach’, the private sector would put up cash to fund the Change4Life campaign to improve diets and boost levels of physical activity among young people.
In a letter to Andrew Lansley, interested parties – including the Royal College of Physicians, the Faculty of Public Health, the British Dental Association and the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry – condemned his aims.
In May, it was muted that a ‘fat tax’ could be levied on junk food and sugary drinks in a bid to reduce obesity and reduce the deficit.
But research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that any fat tax would have a negative affect on poorer families and have a greater impact on their food budget.
This week, Mr Lansley, said business people ‘understand the social responsibility of people having a better lifestyle and they don’t regard that as remotely inconsistent with their long-term commercial interest’.
He added: ‘No government campaign or programme can force people to make healthy choices. We want to free business from the burden of regulation, but we don’t want, in doing that, to sacrifice public health outcomes.’
Alan Maryon-Davis, the outgoing president of the Faculty of Public Health, said: ‘Personally, I mistrust the notion of seeing public health campaigns being sponsored by companies that clearly sell products which are not the healthy option.’
The food industry said it welcomed the new move and was keen to work in partnership with the government.