A South Yorkshire expert on childhood fitness has labelled food manufacturers “sugar pushers” amid a new report which claims obesity is draining the UK economy.
Britain is spending £47bn a year dealing with the healthcare and social costs of an increasingly overweight population.
Obesity is a bigger burden on the economy than armed violence, war and terrorism.
Darren Padgett, who provides sporting opportunities for thousands of children to help them become fit for life, has laid the blame firmly with food manufacturers.
He founded Team Activ, a social enterprise which delivers sport and PE in every secondary school in Barnsley and more than half of all primary schools in the borough.
“Parents are doing their best, no one wants an unhealthy child, but they are hampered at every attempt by the sugar pushing food manufacturers,” said Darren.
“It’s a constant battle as food is packed full of salt, sugar and saturated fat. Portion sizes have spiralled out of control because everything now is ‘max’, ‘chunky’ or ‘sharing’ size.
“Look at breakfast – children are lured by cartoon characters to eat sugary cereals or to spread chocolate and even marshmallow on toast.
“Even when parents try to offer healthy food, they are thwarted by bread packed with salt or yoghurts with hidden sugar.
“Parents are duped by misleading ingredients. Cereals labelled wholegrain can be full of sugar and empty calories with only a small amount of fibre while sugar can be disguised as high fructose corn syrup.
“At Team Activ we engage children in sport to give them a passion for exercise which will stay with them through life but food manufacturers are unravelling all our good work.”
Darren’s views have been backed by Dr Sally Norton, a leading NHS surgeon, who says food manufacturers can’t sit back and see the obesity crisis worsen. And earlier this year there were calls to regulate the food industry in the same way as the tobacco industry.
This week’s latest study has called for a co-ordinated response from governments, retailers, restaurants and food and drink manufacturers to address what it calls the “global obesity crisis”.
Recommendations include portion control in fast food packaged goods, educating parents, introducing healthy meals in schools and workplaces and changing the school curriculum to include more physical exercise.