Government ditches plans to force pubs to list calories in drinks

Downing Street said the plans for calorie labelling will focus on food and not on drinks
Downing Street said the plans for calorie labelling will focus on food and not on drinks (PA Archive)
14:18pm, Tue 11 May 2021
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The Government has ditched plans to force pubs to list calories in drinks as part of a drive to tackle Britain’s obesity crisis, Downing Street has confirmed.

In April, the Government said it was consulting on introducing mandatory calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks – with a view to highlighting so-called “hidden liquid calories”.

The move was met with fury by the drinks industry, with the British Beer and Pub Association saying pubs were already “on their knees” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A briefing document published to accompany the Queen’s speech on Tuesday said firms with more than 250 employees will be forced to list calories on food, but there is no mention of drinks.

We’ve listened to the feedback from the consultation and we think this is the right approach to take forward now

Downing Street said the plans for calorie labelling will focus on food and not on drinks, relieving pubs of the need to label the calories contained in pints.

Pressed on why drinks have not been included in the plans, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’ve listened to the feedback from the consultation and we think this is the right approach to take forward now and that’s why we will set out more detail in a consultation response which is coming out later.”

The Government has previously said it will restrict promotions on high fat, salt and sugar food and drinks in retailers from April 2022, also set down in the briefing document.

It will also introduce a ban on junk food adverts before 9am on TV, and plans a total ban on online junk food ads.

The Food and Drink Federation’s chief scientific officer, Kate Halliwell, said the TV and online bans confirmed “this Government is interested in headline-chasing policy rather than making serious interventions that will help reduce obesity rates.

“A proposed advertising ban would remove less than five calories a day from children’s diets, according to the Government’s own estimates.

“And yet the proposals limit the scope for advertising products that have been carefully reformulated or created in smaller portions in-line with the Government’s own targets. For example, Cadbury would not be able to advertise their 30% reduced sugar Dairy Milk.”

Queen’s speech 2021 (PA Wire)

But Caroline Cerny, from the Obesity Health Alliance, which is made up of more than 40 health organisations, said: “The commitment to taking forward restrictions on junk food adverts online is very welcome news and shows that the Government is serious about putting our nation’s health first by effectively addressing the drivers of obesity.

“If implemented fully, with a 9pm watershed on unhealthy food adverts on TV and restrictions on promotions, these landmark policies will stem the flood of unhealthy food and drink adverts, opening up opportunities for more healthier foods to be advertised.”

Other anti-obesity measures from the Government include a new incentive scheme called Fit Miles, which will look at paying people to eat better and exercise more.

Elsewhere, the Prime Minister has put repairing the NHS following the Covid-19 pandemic at the heart of the next programme for government.

The Queen’s speech included an NHS “catch-up and recovery plan” detailing the “unprecedented challenge” now facing the health service, which includes 4.7 million people in England waiting for care and more than 380,000 waiting more than a year for treatment.

As well as a commitment to clearing the backlog, the Government has pledged to “account for the returning demand of those people who have not come forward for care during the pandemic”.

It wants to persuade these “missing referrals” to see their GP to find undiagnosed conditions, including cancer.

As announced in March, an extra £7 billion of funding for healthcare services, including £1 billion to address the backlogs that have built up in planned care, has been set aside to continue tackling the challenges brought about by Covid-19.

Over the longer term, regular boosters are likely to become a regular part of managing Covid-19

This takes NHS Covid-19 funding to £92 billion, with £63 billion this year and £29 billion next year.

In the plans, some £325 million will be spent on improving diagnostics equipment to help improve detection and treatment of conditions such as cancer.

The briefing document sets out how the Government is planning a potential booster vaccine campaign in the autumn to protect the vulnerable against Covid-19.

It said: “Over the longer term, regular boosters are likely to become a regular part of managing Covid-19.”

When it comes to mental health, the Government has already pledged to reform the process for detention and give people better support to challenge detention if they wish.

Reforms will also seek to address the disproportionate number of people from black and minority ethnic groups detained under the Mental Health Act.

As already announced, the Government will invest an extra £2.3 billion a year in mental health services by 2023-24, so that two million more people will be able to access mental health support.

A one-off targeted investment of £500 million is aimed at supporting people over the next year who have suffered poor mental health through the pandemic.

In her speech, the Queen further set out plans for the previously announced Health and Care Bill, which Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said will see “different parts of the NHS joining up more seamlessly”.

The Bill aims to reduce bureaucracy, with one example being that the NHS will only need to tender services when it can lead to better outcomes for patients – rather than current compulsory competitive tendering.

According to the briefing, one aim of the Bill is to give the NHS and local authorities “the tools they need to level up health and care outcomes across the country, enabling healthier, longer and more independent lives”.

Chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson said NHS trust leaders broadly welcome the direction of the Health and Care Bill but would need reassurances over key areas such as making changes to local services.

“It’s also vital that the Bill puts a proper, funded, long-term NHS workforce plan in place,” he added.

“This is all the more important given the sheer scale of the challenge facing the NHS in the years ahead, such as clearing the backlog of care.”

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