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scientists respond to white paper on health

Responses from public health experts to the Governments white paper on public health unveiled today.

Dr Ian Campbell, president of the National Obesity Forum, said:

“It’s now absolutely clear that Government is serious about tackling obesity. These measures are in line what the NOF was hoping for, and in particular we are pleased to see the establishment of an “independent national partnership on obesity”. It is only when government, industry and the professions start to work together that we will really see the improvements in obesity and its associated diseases that are so desperately needed. There has never been a more urgent need to act and act decisively.

“The British Dietetic Association welcomes the call for clearer labelling of foods. Consumers need clear and accurate information on which to base healthier food choices. However, it is important to develop systems that don’t confuse but truly help people make healthier and balanced choices (rather than worry about eating anything with added sugar, salt or fat, which could affect their nutrient intake) or take the simple pleasure out of eating. More consumer research will be required to achieve this potentially difficult task.”

Steve O’Rahilly, Professor of clinical biochemistry at medicine at Cambridge University, said:

“In most cases the document seems to steer a reasonable course between state intervention and personal liberty. Some of the proposed interventions don’t have particularly strong scientific foundations e.g. we don’t even have a generally accepted definition of childhood obesity, never mind knowing how to prevent it, and we don’t have any reliable information on the efficacy of interventions in children in terms of long term health. Having said that, given the recent rise in fatness in the population it is probably sensible to institute some broad policies to encourage exercise and discourage high energy snacking as these interventions are unlikely to do harm and may do some good.”

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