Poor diet costs the NHS 6 billion GBP a year. Yet there are now ways to reduce sugar, salt and fat in food without affecting the taste. Health Action Campaign is asking why progress is so slow on this – since its research shows that producing healthier food could be good for business as well as public health. The 1 billion GBP a year food and drinks companies claim in tax relief for Research & Development could be used to kick start progress.
Health Action Campaign has just published its report: Healthy and Wealthy? The health and economic implications for the UK of mass producing food high in sugar, salt, saturated fat and refined carbohydrates (S3RC) (http://www.agewatch.org.uk/assets/documents/h-w-01-11-15)
Key findings include:
1. The food and drinks industry is claiming 1 billion GBP a year in corporation tax relief for Research and Development (R&D). Imagine what could be achieved if this saving was focused on the development of healthier food.
2. New processes and ingredients (such as salt microspheres, fat micro aeration and flavour delivery particles) can significantly reduce levels of salt, fat and sugar – while keeping the taste consumers are used to. That’s a potential win win situation for the food industry and public health.
3. Consumer research companies say people are becoming more health conscious and also better informed. For example Nielsen report that more European consumers surveyed are now aiming to eat less sugar than are trying to eat less fat. Even AG Barr, makers of the iconic fizzy drink Irn Bru, are now selling more bottled water than carbonated drinks. Greater consumer health consciousness is another reason why producing healthier food looks like being increasingly good for business.
The US is often a good indicator of consumer trends. Four studies by the Hudson Institute found that lower-calorie products drove virtually all of the growth at the HWCF (Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation) member companies studied. They accounted for 52.5 percent of sales and 99 percent of sales growth.
With food companies in the UK still mass producing and retailing food that increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart attack, stroke and depression there’s an urgent need for action.
That’s why Health Action Campaign is calling on the government to make R&D tax relief for the food industry conditional on developing healthier food.
They are also proposing that the UK develops a strategy to achieve global market leadership in the production, sale and marketing of healthier food. This would be a major boost to public health and to the food industry while also helping achieve the Chancellor’s target of doubling UK exports.
Notes for editors
1. Healthy and Wealthy? The health and economic implications for the UK of mass producing food high in sugar, salt, saturated fat and refined carbohydrates (S3RC) was published on 1st November 2015 – by Health Action Campaign, an Age Watch (http://www.agewatch.org.uk) project.
We know that food high in S3RC is unhealthy and is putting increasing pressure on the NHS. However food high in S3RC also provides jobs and tax revenue and generates exports.
So do we face a stark choice – between health and wealth? Or is it possible to mass produce food that is good for our health and also good for business?
This is the central question we explore in Healthy and Wealthy?
People who are obese rarely get back to a normal weight and unhealthy food (rather than lack of exercise) is the major cause of their obesity. So it makes sense to tackle the problem at source, by ensuring the sale of healthier food.
Tastes formed in childhood can last a lifetime, so action to protect children from the sale and marketing of unhealthy food is particularly important.
However, this doesn’t have to be bad for business. Food companies can produce healthier food – through reformulation of existing products, portion control and a focus on healthier products. They can also call on expertise from our world class universities, as M&S did when they worked with Aberdeen University to develop a product range that would keep people feeling fuller longer.
Importantly this is where consumer trends are heading, meaning significant business potential. With government support the UK could become a market leader in the production, sale and marketing of healthier food.
2. For more information please contact:
Michael Baber, Director Health Action Campaign 0758 7064 789
3. Age Watch is a public health charity, launched in 2011.
It aims to help people slow the process of ageing, so they can live longer in good health. This matters because 95% of NHS resources are spent treating people when they fall ill – only 5% is spent preventing people falling ill in the first place.
Age Watch is a company limited by guarantee, recognised as a charity for tax purposes by HMRC.
Registration Number 7661420 (England and Wales)
Registered office: Dalton House, 60 Windsor Avenue, London, SW19 2RR
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