Henry Dimbleby, the adviser behind the UK government’s National Food Strategy, has stepped down because of indifferences over the obesity clampdown.
Dimbleby revealed his resignation in The Sunday Times newspaper at the weekend. Speaking to the BBC today (20 March), he was critical of the Conservative Party’s approach to cutting the number of overweight people.
He told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the “ideology of the Conservative Party and the way that they are dealing with the problem of diet-related disease makes no sense”.
Dimbleby, the co-founder of the Leon food chain, said the Government had “pulled back” on promises to restrict junk-food advertising and warned of the cost to tackle diseases related to diets high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS).
“In ten years’ time, whatever government is in power, they are going to be dealing with huge problems to the NHS, which is going to suck money from the rest of government spending and cause misery from diet-related disease,” he said on the radio broadcast.
The now-former government adviser authored a report in 2021 making recommendations for the Government’s National Food Strategy, in which Dimbleby suggested the implementation of a sugar and salt tax.
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However, policy officials have delayed taking concrete measures. Restrictions planned for October last year on buy-one-get-one-free deals and TV and online advertising for HFSS products have been pushed back.
Amid the cost-of-living squeeze, a ban on multi-buy deals was delayed until October 2023 while a ban on TV advertising of junk foods before the 9pm watershed was pushed back to October 2025.
However, rules restricting the sale of HFSS products such as confectionery in stores at check-outs and aisle ends and their online equivalents went ahead as planned last October.
Dimbleby told BBC Radio 4 he stepped down because he wanted the freedom to voice his opinion over the Government’s HFSS policies.
“This modern Conservative ideology just thinks it can leave everything in the system without any intervention at all,” he said.
In a written article on the BBC’s website following Dimbleby’s radio interview, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson was quoted as saying: “We take tackling obesity seriously and we will continue to work closely with industry to make it easier for people to make healthier choices.
“We recently announced GBP20m [US$24.5m] to trial new obesity treatments and technologies to help save the NHS billions and remain committed to introducing restrictions banning adverts on TV for foods and drinks high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS) before 9pm, as well as paid-for adverts online.”