Ban eat­ing on the train, says health chief

Dame Sally Davies’s fi­nal re­port be­fore step­ping down calls for more taxes on sug­ary and fatty foods

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Laura Donnelly HEALTH ED­I­TOR

Eat­ing or drink­ing on trains and buses should be banned to bring an end to the coun­try’s “mind­less” snack cul­ture, England’s Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer has said. In her fi­nal re­port, Dame Sally Davies called for more taxes on un­healthy foods and said choco­late bars and crisps should be in plain wrap­ping, sim­i­lar to cig­a­rette pack­ag­ing. Dame Sally said chil­dren were “drown­ing in a flood of un­healthy food and drink op­tions” that had fu­elled a dou­bling in obe­sity in 30 years.

EAT­ING or drink­ing on trains and buses should be banned to bring an end to the coun­try’s “mind­less” snack cul­ture, England’s Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer has said.

In her fi­nal re­port, Dame Sally Davies called for more taxes on sug­ary and un­healthy foods and said choco­late bars and crisps should be in plain wrap­ping, sim­i­lar to cig­a­rette pack­ag­ing.

Dame Sally said chil­dren were “drown­ing in a flood of un­healthy food and drink op­tions” which had fu­elled a dou­bling in obe­sity in three decades. But crit­ics said her ideas were “the sil­li­est and most au­thor­i­tar­ian” yet.

Her pro­pos­als in­clude ex­tend­ing the sugar tax to milk­shakes and flavoured cof­fees, and ad­just­ing VAT to tar­get all un­healthy fare. Her re­port wanted to see levies on snacks un­less sugar con­tent was dra­mat­i­cally re­duced by 2021.

Dame Sally said “bold ac­tion” was needed as chil­dren were “flooded with cheap, un­healthy food and drink op­tions”, on av­er­age con­sum­ing three un­healthy snacks and drinks daily. She pro­posed an out­right ban on con­sump­tion of any type of food or drink – ex­cept plain wa­ter – on all ur­ban pub­lic trans­port. She said snack­ing in pub­lic was be­ing nor­malised. “See­ing other peo­ple eat­ing does prompt you to think about eat­ing,” she said, point­ing out that Ja­pan, which has one of the low­est obe­sity rates in the world, bans snack­ing on lo­cal trans­port.

“Calo­ries are bet­ter con­trolled if you eat break­fast, lunch and tea or sup­per rather than eat­ing on the run,” she said.

Her re­port also called for a calo­rie cap on café and restau­rant meals by 2024. And her re­view rec­om­mended only low-calo­rie food and snacks low in salt, fat and sugar should be of­fered at ma­jor sports events and con­certs.

Dame Sally wanted junk food ad­ver­tis­ing at such oc­ca­sions banned, as chil­dren were be­ing “daz­zled” by ad­ver­tise­ments at ev­ery turn.

Obe­sity rates have dou­bled among chil­dren in the last 30 years, with one in three chil­dren end­ing pri­mary school over­weight or obese.

Matt Han­cock, the Health Sec­re­tary, asked Dame Sally for pro­pos­als to halve child­hood obe­sity by 2030. To­day she said the coun­try was “nowhere near” meet­ing such am­bi­tions.

Some rec­om­men­da­tions put her at odds with Boris John­son. Be­fore be­com­ing Prime Min­is­ter, Mr John­son warned against “the con­tin­u­ing creep of the nanny state” and said the in­tro­duc­tion of a milk­shake tax would “clob­ber” the less well off. But Dame Sally said govern­ment had a “moral re­spon­si­bil­ity” to act, and not put the food in­dus­try’s prof­its first.

Christo­pher Snow­don, head of life­style eco­nom­ics at the In­sti­tute of Eco­nomic Af­fairs think tank, said: “The sug­ges­tion that it be a crime to eat a sand­wich on a train brings Dame Sally’s ten­ure as Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer to a fit­tingly au­thor­i­tar­ian con­clu­sion.

“In her time in the job, she has be­come syn­ony­mous with the sil­li­est ex­tremes of the nanny state. Her thirst for tax­ing things is only ex­ceeded by her thirst for ban­ning things,” he said.

The re­view warns there are 1.2 mil­lion obese chil­dren in England, with ex­cess weight re­spon­si­ble for up to 120,000 cases of child­hood asthma and 650,000 of fatty liver dis­ease. On av­er­age, junk food is three times cheaper than healthy meals, her re­port stated. Mr Han­cock said: “We will study it closely and act on the ev­i­dence.”

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