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Slap black octagons on junk food, say top diet experts – Daily Mail

8 minutes, 52 seconds Read

Coco pops and other ‘harmful’ junk food should be stripped of health claims and banned from advertising, a leading expert claimed today. 

TV star and author Dr Chris van Tulleken said the mass-produced food industry was acting in a similar way to big tobacco by selling addictive products which could be harmful. 

Addressing the Food, Diet and Obesity Committee, he argued major food producers were putting profits above health, especially when marketing snacks and processed foods to children.

He called for ‘black label octagon’ label warnings to be brandished across foods with little health benefit. Similar ones are already used in Chile. 

Health experts also urged Brits not to bank on weight loss jabs as a quick fix to solve the crisis in the same meeting with Lords, warning they ‘are not the answer’ and ‘will inevitably cause problems down the line’.

Addressing the Food, Diet and Obesity Committee, he argued major food producers were putting profits above health, especially when marketing snacks and processed foods to children. He called for 'black label octagon' label warnings to be brandished across foods with little health benefit. Similar ones are already used in Chile. Pictured, the octagons used in Chile

The Nova system, developed by scientists in Brazil more than a decade ago, splits food into four groups based on the amount of processing it has gone through. Unprocessed foods include fruit, vegetables, nuts, eggs and meat. Processed culinary ingredients ¿ which are usually not eaten alone ¿ include oils, butter, sugar and salt

Additive-laden foods have been vilified for decades over their supposed risks, with dozens of studies linking them to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Experts have even called for ultra processed foods (UPFs) – typically anything edible with more artificial ingredients than natural ones – to be cut from diets completely.

Addressing the committee, Dr van Tulleken said: ‘We have to learn the lessons of tobacco control. 

‘The ancestry of this food was tobacco. The biggest food companies in the 80s were owned by these tobacco companies.

‘They used their marketing techniques, their flavour molecules to make these kind of products in front of us. We have to take a tobacco control approach.’

WHAT ARE ULTRA-PROCESSED FOODS? 

Ultra-processed foods are high in added fat, sugar and salt, low in protein and fibre and contain artificial colourings, sweeteners and preservatives.

The term covers food that contains ingredients that a person wouldn’t add when cooking at home — such as chemicals, colourings and preservatives.

Ready meals, ice cream, sausages, deep-fried chicken and ketchup are some of the best-loved examples.

They are different to processed foods, which are processed to make them last longer or enhance their taste, such as cured meat, cheese and fresh bread.

Ultra-processed foods, such as sausages, cereals, biscuits and fizzy drinks, are formulations made mostly or entirely from substances derived from foods and additives.

They contain little or no unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fruit, vegetables, seeds and eggs.

The foods are usually packed with sugars, oils, fats and salt, as well as  additives, such as preservatives, antioxidants and stabilisers.

Ultra-processed foods are often presented as ready-to-consume, taste good and are cheap.

Source: Open Food Facts  

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He added: ‘I would apply black warning label octagons to harmful foods. I would use our own pre-existing dietary recommendations.

‘If you did that, Coco Pops gets two big black octagons.’

Nutritional information published on Coco Pops packaging shows it is high in sugar and salt.  

Explaining the logic of the octagons, Dr van Tulleken said: ‘These are foods you can’t make a health claim on. You can’t say it supports your family’s health.

‘You get rid of the health claims, you get rid of Coco monkey, you put it on a different shelf. 

‘You can’t advertise it to kids and the companies that make these products shouldn’t be able to advertise.

‘They’re very good at advertising themselves without advertising the product. It has to be a brand ban.’

He added: ‘Octagon food is the food you don’t then have in prisons, you don’t have in hospitals, you don’t have it in schools. You can’t sell it to children.’ 

UPFs refers to items which contain ingredients people would not usually add when they were cooking homemade food.

These additions might include chemicals, colourings, sweeteners and preservatives that extend shelf life.

Ready meals, ice cream and tomato ketchup are some of the best-loved examples of products that fall under the umbrella UPF term, now synonymous with foods offering little nutritional value because they generally have higher sugar, salt and fat content.

They are different to processed foods, which are tinkered to make them last longer or enhance their taste, such as cured meat, cheese and fresh bread. 

Earlier during the meeting, Dr van Tulleken also claimed the UK’s burgeoning obesity crisis was not a ‘personal responsibility’. 

He said: ‘What’s lovely is that we have not had to discuss personal responsibility at all today.

‘That argument is morally, economically, socially, politically and scientifically dead and buried.

‘All policies must entirely remove that from the table as a characteristic. They must be kind, they must draw on the lived experience of affected people. 

‘Most importantly, they have to adopt a regulatory position. They have to be free of industry influence.’

It comes as researchers today named companies they claim are reliant on selling junk food to teens and children.

Giants such as Ferrero, Mondelez and Unilever were found to have the unhealthiest portfolios in the study, backed by the Government’s former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance

Elsewhere during the committee hearing, Henry Dimbleby, the Government's ex-food tsar, also urged Brits not to bank on weight loss jabs as a quick fix to solve the crisis. 'Miracle' slimming jabs like Ozempic and Wegovy are proven to help people lose up to 2st. But the founder of 'healthy' fast-food chain Leon said that 'giving them out in huge quantities' would 'inevitably cause problems down the line'

Around two thirds of over-16s in England (64 per cent) are overweight, including tens of thousands who are morbidly obese. This is an 11 per cent rise on 1993, when 53 per cent were considered overweight. Experts blame sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets. Source: Health Survey for England 2021

Obesity rates have been on the rise for decades, with experts blaming sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets.

They are also soaring in children, with a quarter of children in reception now considered overweight, and one in ten obese.

Elsewhere during the committee hearing, Henry Dimbleby, the Government’s ex-food tsar, also urged Brits not to bank on weight loss jabs as a quick fix to solve the crisis. 

‘Miracle’ slimming jabs like Ozempic and Wegovy are proven to help people lose up to 2st. 

But the founder of ‘healthy’ fast-food chain Leon said that ‘giving them out in huge quantities’ would ‘inevitably cause problems down the line’.

HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR BODY MASS INDEX – AND WHAT IT MEANS

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height. 

Standard Formula:

  • BMI = (weight in pounds / (height in inches x height in inches)) x 703

Metric Formula:

  • BMI = (weight in kilograms / (height in meters x height in meters))

Measurements:

  • Under 18.5: Underweight
  • 18.5 – 24.9: Healthy
  • 25 – 29.9: Overweight
  • 30 – 39.9: Obese 
  • 40+: Morbidly obese 
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He said: ‘I fear what will happen, which has all sorts of negative connotations, is that if there is a lack of action to improve the food system, we will increasingly drug our way out of the problem.

‘We will end up, as you do, with 30 per cent of the population on antidepressants, with 30 per cent of the population on diet-suppressing drugs and you’ll move the profits from the food companies to the drug companies.’

Mr Dimbleby, who was commissioned to conduct an independent review of the food system — the national food strategy — added: ‘There are two things that really worry me about that.

‘For some people, whose genetics make it very very hard for them to maintain a healthy weight, those drugs could become very important and could change their lives. 

‘If you start giving them out in huge quantities, almost inevitably there’s a risk of people who really need them won’t want to take them.

‘The other thing is at the moment, they basically replicate the action of one hormone or maybe two in some cases.

‘I think they will inevitably cause problems down the line.’

The pens, taken once a day, trick the brain and make the body think it is full, curbing appetite. 

Effects can be visible within weeks. 

Patients on them claim to have been left repulsed by their favourite foods, including coffee, chocolate and fried chicken.

But trials show users of semaglutide – the powerful ingredient in both Ozempic and Wegovy — can put weight back on as soon as they stop taking it. 

Obesity experts have previously argued they may need to be used as life-long drugs.

Dr Van Tulleken, who nodded along as Dimbleby expressed his views, added: ‘Prevention is always better than cure. We can celebrate these drugs. They are a great thing.

‘We can’t afford them, they won’t work as well as they do in the trials and at the moment we’re giving them to people who are already suffering. 

‘You have to suffer for a certain number of years emotionally, physically, psychologically, socially, before you become entitled to these drugs. 

Wegovy and Ozempic work by triggering the body to produce a hormone called GLP-1 that is released naturally from the intestines after meals

Despite being hailed as one of the most powerful pharmaceutical tools to date, trials have also shown that users of Wegovy can rapidly pile pounds back on once they stop taking the fat-fighting drug and it can trigger a variety of nasty side effects. Users commonly complain of nausea, constipation and diarrhoea after taking the medication

Ozempic is available on the NHS as a treatment for managing blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. In May, it was also approved for weight loss under the brand name Wegovy and launched in September on the NHS for weight loss for patients who are overweight or obese with weight-related health problems

A UK study found that people who used Wegovy experienced rapid weight loss, dropping 18 per cent of their weight over 68 weeks. They regained two-thirds of that weight, or 12 per cent of their original body weight in the year after dropping the weekly injections. Experts says the drug needs to be used over a lifetime to keep off the pounds

One million patients, who were a healthy weight with a body mass index (BMI) of 18 to 25, were calculated to cost the NHS an average of £638 each in 2019, the final year of the study. By comparison, severely obese patients with a BMI of 40 and above cost more than double - at £1,375 annually. Meanwhile, the NHS spent £979 a year on obese patients with a BMI of 30 to 35, which increased to £1,178 a year for those with a BMI of 35-40

‘And then you have to be on them for your life and many people won’t be able to take them.

‘So, it’s fine to celebrate them. I’m not anti the drugs, but they aren’t the answer — not by any means.’

A spike in demand for the jabs, fuelled by celebrity endorsements, has also seen global stocks run low. 

Ozempic is currently only available on the NHS as a treatment for managing blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Its dramatic slimming effects saw doctors and pharmacists dish it out ‘off-label’ for people wanting to lose weight

Health chiefs, however, urged against doing so because of supply issues, warning it put diabetics lives at risk. 

Wegovy was approved earlier this year, specifically for weight loss.

A month’s supply is available privately in the likes of Boots and Superdrug for around £200. Eligibility criteria for people wanting the get the drug on the NHS is strict.

A lack of exercise, combined with unhealthy diets, has been blamed for the growing obesity epidemic in the UK. 

Latest NHS data shows 26 per cent of adults in England are obese and a further 38 per cent are overweight but not obese. 

A landmark study published in May revealed the UK’s bulging waistline is stripping billions of pounds from the cash-strapped NHS each year, with twice as much spent on obese patients as on those of a healthy weight.

Costs per patient rise drastically the more people weigh, as they ‘collect obesity-related conditions’ such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, according to research involving nearly 2.5million people. 

WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide 

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