The British system actively encourages less healthy food by making it cheaper, according to the House of Lords Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee.
Calling for urgent action to narrow the divide, with a difference in healthy life expectancy of about 20 years between rich and poor, the group has called for moves to curb excessive advertising, as well as stepping up pressure on the food industry over processed foods.
“Problems of diet and ill-health have been staring us in the face for decades, but successive Governments have done precious little about it,” said committee chair Lord Krebs. “While this affects everyone, people in poverty either can’t afford enough to eat or have unhealthy diets.
“The Government knows about the problem. It’s time to stop the dither and delay, endless talking and consultation, and get on with it.”
The way Britain produces, manufactures and sells food is a barrier to healthy eating, the peers warn in today’s Hungry for Change report. The system, it adds, encourages processed, less healthy food by making it cheaper and promoting it.
People in Britain consume more highly processed food than those in any other European country, and Britain has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe, the report details.
Those people living in the most deprived areas are about twice as likely to be obese than those living in the least deprived areas, it adds.
With food bank use rising over 80 per cent in recent months, moves must be taken urgently, peers say, to ensure a healthier population.
Calls for action
Amid calls for pressure on the food industry, the peers have said Government must assess people live with food insecurity, ensure food initiatives for disadvantaged children are fully funded, and bring in a national food strategy.
“This report shows that millions of families can’t eat well unless they have sufficient income and an environment which makes the healthy choice the easiest,” said Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation. “Every day that passes where the odds are stacked against families securing a healthy diet is a missed opportunity to secure a healthy future for our children.”
Education unions have called for a nationwide strategy to ease the pressure on families, and release them from the “indignity” of relying on foodbanks.
“This report should serve as an urgent wake up call to the Government,” said Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, warning over the impact on a child’s ability to learn. “Families should be able to access not only enough food, but also the food that they need to stay healthy.”
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