A new report, backed by AB Sugar, has claimed fast food outlets should be licensed and all government policies should face an obesity “test”.

The paper, published yesterday by 2020health, said: “Nothing less than a cross-sector five- to 10-year strategy is required to tackle the obesity crisis.”

This strategy should include the development of a permanent government task force, added 2020health.

Julia Manning, chief executive of 2020health said: “Piecemeal solutions have been tried in the past and have been shown to be inadequate. According to the WHO, we are the fat-man of Europe and this has severe consequences for us as a nation. Unless we have a cross-cutting strategy that everyone from the government down takes seriously, obesity will continue to rise and be devastating for both individuals and the nation.”

She added:  “Our research has shown that hand-in-hand with obesity is widespread confusion over what constitutes healthy eating and a rise in malnutrition. We have a culture of excess, but there is no single reason for our obesity problem, and it is fallacious to suggest otherwise.

“This report is not the final word; we need to undertake more research into the efficacy of taxes, the role of the employer, food production, the environment and individual circumstances in combating obesity.”

Katharine Teague, head of advocacy, AB Sugar, said: “AB Sugar looks forward to continuing to work collaboratively with all voices in the debate to tackle pressing lifestyle and public health issues. The support we provided to 2020health in order to undertake an independent review into obesity and the measures and interventions that have the potential to make a real difference, is an important part of our work in this area.”

Other options recommended in the report include:

  • Introducing tax incentives for larger businesses to make wellbeing provision (such as access to occupational health, nutritionist, gym facilities) available to smaller local businesses;
  • Introducing licensing for fast food outlets to control the location and numbers of outlets in a local community;
  • Recognising the positive response to the Responsibility Deal. Government should require all companies to follow the excellent example of participants. The Responsibility Deal to turn into a legislative framework which is phased in over the next 5-10 years;
  • Clear disclosure of calories per items on restaurant and café menus which adhere to a defined standard for font size, formatting, contrast and layout of menus;
  • The ban on advertising of unhealthy foods aimed at children should be extended to daytime TV, from 7am to 9pm;
  • A review needs to be undertaken into the economic and societal impacts of a hypothecated tax on a range of food and drink contents at levels that are deemed harmful to health;
  • Increasing awareness, coordination and reach of the government’s ‘Healthy Start’ Voucher scheme. Extend voucher scheme to incentivise those who become active partners in their health by quitting smoking, reducing weight, walking a set number of steps etc;
  • Establishing a cross-departmental permanent government task force on obesity. This supports similar recommendations made by other health organisations;
  • Improved screening and normalisation of discussion about diet and weight at medical appointments.