Gavin Neath, chairman of Unilever UK, has voiced criticism of the UK Government over its approach to a planned joint industry and government public health campaign on healthy eating.
Neath told an advertising conference that he believed the government had shifted its view on the campaign, originally agreed in 2004. “An agreement to construct a public health campaign with industry is fairly far down their to-do list,” he said, adding that he now believed that the government was more inclined towards tougher regulation of food advertising rather than collaborating with the industry on communicating a healthy eating message.

The 2004 plan was expected to include advertising, labelling initiatives and schools-based programmes. Neath said he now feels the government believes it is more likely to achieve its targets for reducing childhood obesity by 2010 by “targeting food advertising than by working with industry”.

He believes the government may be concerned that by partnering with food companies it would appear to be too cosy with the food industry.

Neath’s speech comes as the industry awaits a ruling on food labelling by the UK’s Food Standards Agency, which is expected next week. The broadcasting and communications regulator, Ofcom, is also reviewing current guidelines on the advertising of food to children.