Ministers must explore retailer levy if they want to tackle obesity emergency

Alison Johnstone MSP, Health spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, today (6 Dec) responded to the latest worrying figures on obesity by highlighting the option of a levy on big retailers to reduce the amount of unhealthy food they promote.

Figures show that in 2015, 65 per cent of adults were overweight, including 29 per cent who were obese. 28 per cent of children were at risk of being overweight, including 15 per cent at risk of obesity. And prevalence of Type 2 diabetes continues to increase steadily.

At today's Health Committee in Parliament, Alison sparked discussion about the role of retailers, noting that private companies are profiting from unhealthy food sales while the public purse picks up the cost of treating associated ill-health.

The Scottish Greens 2016 manifesto proposed a levy on retailers of unhealthy foods, a measure described as "the only innovative public health proposal" by the University of Edinburgh's Global Public Health Unit.

In committee, expert witnesses noted that while many retailers are part of the Government-funded Healthy Living Programme, this has not made a difference to obesity figures.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

"The evidence to the Health Committee is clear. Big retailers are promoting unhealthy food, increasing the amount that people buy. The links between obesity and serious health conditions such as cancer and diabetes are well understood, and we cannot shy away from bold action on this issue.

"To date the Scottish Government's effort has been half-hearted. With obesity figures refusing to budge, the time for radical measures has arrived. There is no one measure to fix the problem but that doesn't mean doing nothing. Public health experts welcome the idea of a levy on big retailers, and Scottish Ministers must explore this if they want to stand up to big business and tackle this public health emergency."


Obesity Indicators (Scottish Government)