Labour has announced plans to limit fat, salt and sugar in food content marketed to children.
The party will work with the European Union (EU) to make traffic light labelling mandatory to “empower” people with better information to make better choices – currently food manufacturers volunteer the traffic light information on their products under EU law.
Inactivity is to be targeted, with Labour aiming to have half the UK’s population reaching recommended levels of physical activity by 2025 and everybody able to take part in a minimal level of exercise.
TV advertisements are also to reviewed by the Committee on Advertising Practice and the Advertising Standards Agency, to see how protecting children from adverts for “unhealthy products” can be introduced at times other than just when children’s TV shows are aired.
Shadow Health Minister Andy Burnham, said the government had “a clear responsibility to minimise the harm poor choices can do to a child’s health”, in a speech made in London last week.
Burnham said there was “far more we can and should” be doing as a society to protect children from the harm caused by smoke, sugar, alcohol and inactivity, but claimed “old fashioned” ideas about banning or restricting what people can and cannot do are “unlikely to work”.
Burnham accused the current government of failing to deliver promised measures on tobacco packaging and alcohol.
Chair of the nutrition committee at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr Colin Michie, said: “A political party that invests in early intervention and prevention will not only be safeguarding the health of future generations but also protecting the future of the NHS.
“With childhood obesity a ticking time bomb, it’s clear that nudging people to change behaviour alone isn’t working. It is also absolutely right better food labelling is made mandatory.
“We urge whoever is in power following May’s general election to hold child health as high priorities and to lead with practical changes that give children and teenagers better opportunities for a healthy start to life.”
Pharmacist lead at NHS Alliance, Mark Robinson, said: “Pharmacists have a great role in looking at public health issues, such as obesity, giving advice on diet and referral into exercise programmes.
“If you’re looking at patients with long-term conditions and suffering from ill health, from a general practice point of view, pharmacists have a good position in the community and its quite important you connect up the pieces.
“There is a huge role in managing common conditions in community pharmacy, there could be a much improved service where general practice would signpost to community pharmacy and those services become much more productive.
“Community pharmacy is an ideal place to launch public health and community orientated services, not only smoking cessation and giving supported lifestyle advice. I think community pharmacy can take part in sexual health, not only chlamydia and emergency contraception but pharmacists could be contracted to deliver oral contraception services.”