40% of adults in UK to be obese by 2035, as MPs urge government to wage war on junk food

28 July 2023, 06:41

40% of UK adults will be obese by 2035
40% of UK adults will be obese by 2035. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Four in ten adults in the UK are expected to be obese in little over ten years, as a group of MPs called on the government to help "break the junk food cycle".

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The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said that one in five households are struggling to pay for good quality food, which is contributing to the growth in obesity.

And the NHS will be hit by "very significant costs" by rising obesity rates, the MPs said.

Some 26% of adults in the UK are obese as of January 2023. Another 38% are overweight, but not obese.

Meanwhile nearly 18% of households experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in January, with food prices soaring, the committee claimed in their report.

They urged ministers to think about making more children eligible for free school meals.

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Some 800,000 children living in poverty are not entitled to free food at school, as the rules currently stand.

The committee also argued in their report that "many households are skipping meals" amid high food costs - despite supermarkets paying big dividends to shareholders.

Sir Robert Goodwill, the Tory MP who chairs the committee, urged the Government to "read the report carefully and act accordingly".

"Food security matters to us all. It is vital to farmers; it is vital to other food producers. And of course, it is vital for every citizen up and down the land to have a square meal at a reasonable price," he said.

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"But surprisingly, the Government does not appear to be taking this very basic matter anywhere near seriously enough.

"This report is calling, through its various recommendations, for much more attention to be paid to the guaranteed supply of good quality food - at prices which suit both producers and consumers. I know that is not an easy balance to strike. But that's what government is for."

The MPs warned that food that is high in fat, sugar and salt is "often considerable cheaper" per calorie than healthy food, fuelling obesity levels in poorer households.

They urged the Government to support people to make better choices more accessible and affordable as part of an obesity strategy.

Obesity rates are rising in the UK
Obesity rates are rising in the UK. Picture: Getty

Ministers were urged to carry out a full impact assessment of the introduction of a sugar and salt tax that could help drive healthier choices.

A Government spokesman responded: "We know food prices are worrying for households across the country, which is why we're sticking to our plan to halve inflation this year, and ministers are keeping in close discussion with the industry about the cost of food.

"We have introduced a number of measures to tackle obesity, recently implementing clear food labelling guidelines to help people make healthier choices for themselves and their family when eating out or getting a takeaway.

"We estimate there will be a reduction of 70,000 children and 300,000 adults living with obesity as a result of this policy."