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Viewpoint: Regulation of the hospitality industry is not the way to tackle childhood obesity

31 August 2016
Viewpoint: Regulation of the hospitality industry is not the way to tackle childhood obesity

After the Childhood Obesity Strategy was published last week, the British Hospitality Association's Ufi Ibrahim argues for a holistic approach

The BHA shares the government's ambition to combat childhood obesity and we welcome much of the proposed strategy launched last week, particularly the government's apparent realisation that working closely with the industry to combat childhood obesity will be more effective than enforcing additional regulation.

Sadly, much of the public and media discussion of the Childhood Obesity Strategy, which was published on 18 August, failed to take into account the brilliant work that has already been undertaken by our industry in the last few years.

The BHA represents more than 44,000 hospitality and foodservice management businesses across the country. As a collective, we have long been working to promote health and nutrition, offer customers choice and healthy alternatives, and empower customers with information, and at the same time cut the amount of sugar and salt in the meals that we serve.

The BHA's Food Experts Group and Nutrition Group are already working on a comprehensive response to the government's strategy. As the organisation representing the UK's ‘out of home food', our response will help shape government policy and future action on obesity.

To help us do this, we want to hear reactions to the government's strategy from businesses across the country and to hear what action they've already taken. The BHA will ensure their voices are heard.

Our industry is one of the foundations of the UK economy. Hospitality directly employs 2.9 million people across all parts of the UK, creates 10% of the UK's total GDP and stimulates enterprise and entrepreneurship, with half of hospitality businesses employing fewer than five people.

Hospitality also services all parts of the economy. Our members serve more than 8.3 billion meals every year to families, workers and visitors alike.

We are responsible for a large proportion of some people's weekly food intake and even though we cannot force them to eat healthily, the industry takes very seriously its responsibility to ensure that food ingredients, production and cooking methods are as healthy as possible and to give customers the information they need to make balanced decisions about what they eat.

We know from recent surveys that tastes are changing and the public demand for healthy eating is growing rapidly. Our industry has and will continue to respond to these changes, and we've already seen a marked increase in the number of ‘healthy sections' appearing on menus.

Tackling child obesity is a major issue to which there are no easy solutions. A strategy that adopts a holistic approach is required to bring together lifestyle, education, fitness and exercise initiatives, rather than concentrating on single-strand issues.

The more we work together, the stronger we as an industry will become. A shared vision and commitment between the hospitality industry and the government will be essential if the government hopes to succeed in tackling childhood obesity.

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