Obesity

Policy Position

FDF members share society's concerns about the health of the nation, particularly in relation to rising obesity levels. We believe there is no simple cause or single solution to tackle obesity and that a broad range of initiatives is needed to reverse the health burden of rising obesity, reduced physical activity and alcohol consumption and drive change.

FDF members are already playing their part to help individuals achieve a healthy, balanced diet by providing a wide range of affordable, nutritious food and drinks as well as developing healthier options, changing recipes to add extra nutrients in and reducing levels of salt, saturated fat and energy in addition to providing clear on-pack nutrition information.

Our commitment to health is long-standing: we published our first health and wellbeing action plan in 2004 and in 2007 we established a Health and Wellbeing Steering Group to work constructively with Government, regulators and others to help find solutions to the complex issues at the heart of the diet and health challenge here in the UK. FDF are currently working constructively and proactively with Government through voluntary initiatives such as the Responsibility Deal and engage regularly with other stakeholders on this complex issue.

Our work has included:

  • Reformulating products to reduce calories, usually by reducing levels of fat or sugars, whilst maintaining food safety, quality and taste as part of our commitment to the Responsibility Deal. We have also reformulated products to reduce salt and have virtually eliminated the use of artificial trans-fats – individual company case studies are available to view in our Health and Wellbeing report.
  • Developing 'low-in' products as part of our ranges
  • Providing a range of portion sizes to enable individuals to select smaller portions
  • Developing new packaging, such as re-sealable packs, so that customers do not have to consume a product 'in one go' and are able to minimise waste and moderate consumption
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles within our own workforces and the communities within which we operate
  • Providing clear, consistent nutrition information on food labels to enable consumers to make informed choices

Background

Obesity refers to an excess of body fat, and in adults is measured by the body mass index (BMI) which is defined as a person's weight (in kilograms) divided by their height (in metres) squared. Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30kg/m2 or over.

Rising levels of obesity are a public health concern due to the association between obesity and morbidity and mortality. Being obese increases the risk of developing chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure (which is linked to an increased risk of stroke) and cancer.

Weight gain occurs when overall energy intakes consistently exceed energy requirements, leading to weight gain. Both diet and physical activity have a role to play in maintaining energy balance. Put simply the number of calories we eat needs to match the amount of physical activity we do to keep our weight constant.

Incidence

The most recently published government figures (Health Survey for England – 2014) show that in England there was a marked increase in the proportion of obese people in the mid-nineties, which rose less steeply until around 2006. Obesity levels have remained similar since then, and are currently 24% for men and 27% of women.

In total, 65% of men and 58% of women are above the normal weight for their height, with 41% of men and 31% of women being overweight but not obese.

The same report found that 17% of boys and girls aged 2 to 15 were classed as obese, with 14% of all children both boys and girls classed as overweight. Obesity in children increased steadily from 1995 to 2004/5, with levels slightly below this peak since then, however in 2014 obesity among boys aged 2-15 reached the peak level of 19% again, whereas for girls obesity was at a lower level, 16%.

Industry Action


Last reviewed: 22 Jul 2016