Intended for healthcare professionals


A system-wide challenge for UK food policy

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 15 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3414
  1. Susan A Jebb, head of diet and population health
  1. 1MRC Human Nutrition Research, Elsie Widdowson Laboratory, Cambridge CB1 9NL, UK
  1. susan.jebb{at}

Single issue solutions won’t prevent diet related diseases with complex causes

Diet related disease leads to about 70 000 premature deaths in the United Kingdom.1 The rising prevalence of obesity is a signal that the food system is out of kilter with public health priorities. Ahead of the World Health Assembly (21-26 May in Geneva), which will discuss the World Health Organization’s progress on strengthening action for preventing non-communicable diseases, Mytton and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.e2931) consider the evidence for specific food taxes to improve health,2 while Hawkes (doi:10.1136/bmj.e2801) makes the case that global health policies should be embedded within the wider food economy.3

Under successive governments, UK policies on diet have relied heavily on more and better education for consumers to make healthy choices, based on the notion that consumer behaviour will shape markets. More recently, basic information campaigns have given way to a social marketing approach, epitomised by Change4Life, a campaign run by the Department of Health in England that offers encouragement and support to achieve a healthier lifestyle. It is well known that putting knowledge into practice needs clear nutritional labelling, …

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