Why Healthy and Wealthy?

We’ve now published Healthy and Wealthy? - our report into the food industry. This explores the health and economic implications of mass producing and retailing unhealthy food.

Q. Why the food industry?

A. Because food high in sugar, salt, saturated fat and refined carbohydrates (S3RC) increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression and some cancers – and costs the NHS £6 billion a year treating the effects of unhealthy diet.

It also affects poor people disproportionately, so fuels health inequalities.

Other factors also affect our health, like exercise or whether we smoke. However food and drink are the two things we absolutely need to survive. This means the quality of that food and drink is of fundamental importance. 

Q: What did we find? 

Here are some of our key findings: 

  • What we eat and how much is the biggest single cause of obesity, more important than how much we exercise. 
  • A healthy diet is more important than dieting if we want to control our weight. 
  • What we (and our pregnant mothers) eat in the first 1000 days of life from conception is particularly important for long term health and weight control. 
  • We each need to take personal responsibility for what we eat and drink. 
  • However, governments have a responsibility to protect those who can’t protect themselves, in particular children – and companies have a corporate responsibility to produce food that isn’t harmful to health. 
  • Government income from the food and beverage industry has probably been over overestimated. Tax avoidance, in-work State Benefits (due to low pay) and NHS costs are an expensive cocktail. 
  • New processes and ingredients mean the food industry can significantly reduce levels of sugar, salt and saturated fat while keeping the taste consumers are used to. 
  • The food and drinks industry is claiming £1 billion a year in corporation tax relief for Research and Development (R & D). Imagine what could be achieved if this saving was focused on the development of healthier food and drink. 
  • As consumers become better educated and more health conscious it is in the business interests of the food and beverage industry to produce healthier products. 

Q: What do we recommend?   

Here are some of our main recommendations: 

  • A multi party task force, with a remit to reduce pre school obesity within 5 years i.e. during the life of a single Parliament. 
  • Targets to reduce sugar levels in food and drink. 
  • A ban on the online advertising of unhealthy food to children. 
  • Corporation tax relief for food industry R & D to be available only to support the development of healthier food. 
  • A business strategy to enable the UK to achieve global market leadership in the production, sale and marketing of healthier food. 

If you agree with our findings we'd welcome your support. You can contact us at info@agewatch.org.uk

November 2015