FSS Battles Scottish Obesity
Published: 10 Jun 2016
The chief executive of Food Standards Scotland, Geoff Ogle, has made a warning to the people of Scotland: the battle against obesity is one that they cannot afford to lose.
Looking at healthcare costs and the rate of mortality in certain age groups, his claim is that sugar-heavy and unhealthy diets are crippling Scotland. He is now leading an advertising campaign, through which he hopes to shock unhealthy Scots into changing their habits.
The campaign is designed to strike fear into the hearts of those who eat an unhealthy diet, and focuses particularly on sugar. In fact, Ogle is currently looking into the idea of extending the proposed fizzy drink sugar tax to other sugary items, such as biscuits, sweets, and cakes.
He said: “Everything that has been tried so far, there has only been marginal gain. We aren’t a political organisation. I think if we are making people uncomfortable in relation to diet and nutrition, then that’s a good thing. In any other area of policy, if we said that one third of children couldn’t read or write or walk 100 metres, there would be a scandal. It is scandalous that 31 per cent of children are at risk of being overweight or obese.”
The FSS are targeting solutions which are based on wealth and on deprivation levels, therefore hitting individuals in the ways that would help them the most rather than providing a blanket solution.
A Telling Report
The latest wave of campaigning comes in the wake of a report published by the FSS in December. This laid out the details of the average Scottish diet, and also showed that it is very necessary for steps to be taken against this epidemic of poor eating habits.
Research suggests that only 1 in 3 people believe that a healthy diet is important, and it is predicted that by 2030, 40% of people in Scotland will be obese. This is what Ogle and his team are fighting against, using information gathered through research – such as the fact that those from deprived backgrounds are more likely to have a high-sugar diet. Those who are better off, meanwhile, tend to eat too much saturated fat.
Ogle commented: “There is quite a lot of habit forming around foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar. My sense is that the messages are normally about what you need to eat less of. But we have evidence around attitudes and it is about stopping the habit. Breaking habit is notoriously hard to do. We need to start treating food and food consumption as a public health problem. We have a role to ensure the foods we eat are safe. The evidence is you need different solutions for different groups of people.”
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The New Campaign
Ogle promises that his new advertising campaign will cause Scottish viewers to “sit up and think”, with the launch this autumn set to be an interesting one. However, it seems likely that we will wait a little longer for research to be completed before those more targeted messages go out.
Whatever the case may be, legislation could be next. “If it’s not enough, we will put regulation on the table. But if there’s a possibility you can get to the outcomes you want without regulation, then it is right to pursue them first,” says Ogle.