The Government should push ahead with measures to restrict the availability and promotion of junk food as well as bringing in front of package traffic-light food labelling, says the NHS watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
It said measures to remove trans fats, classified as 'toxic' by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and cutting saturated fat levels from foods alone would prevent 20,000 premature deaths every year.
The recommendations form part of new guidance to the Government on reducing the impact of unhealthy food on heart disease and stroke - principally through getting the food industry to cut salt and hidden saturated fat levels in food and ensuring low salt and saturated products are sold more cheaply than their higher content equivalents.
'This isn’t about telling individuals to choose salad instead of chips - it’s about making sure that the chips we all enjoy occasionally are as healthy as possible,' said NICE director Professor Mike Kelly.
'This guidance can help the Government and the food industry to take action to prevent huge numbers of unnecessary deaths and illnesses caused by heart disease and stroke,' added Professor Simon Capewell, part of the group that compiled the guidance.
'Now is precisely the time to push harder and to work together better to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease still further, beginning with children and young people, to reduce their risks in later life.'
NICE also recommended introducing traffic-light labelling on the front of all food packaging and said it was 'proven to help shoppers make a healthy informed choice about what they and their families eat.' However, these proposals suffered a setback last week as heavy lobbying by the food industry saw European MPs recently vote against such proposals.
The other key recommendations were:
- Restrict planning permission and opening hours for takeaways and other unhealthy food retail outlets near schools and within local communities
- Ban on TV advertising for foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar before 9pm to protect children
- Eliminate industrially-produced trans fats from processed food and takeaways
- Force manufacturers to reduce hidden saturated fat in food if they fail to do so voluntarily
Full NICE guidance
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