Boris Johnson was today accused of hypocrisy over plans to get Britain into shape by banning buy-one-get-one-free deals on junk food and stopping supermarkets from selling sweets near tills in his war on obesity.
In an attempt to make the nation slimmer, Number 10 is also expected to re-consider making it mandatory to put calorie counts on all restaurant and takeaway menus.
But furious obesity campaigners today told MailOnline it ‘defies belief’ that ministers are considering to adopt the ‘sensible’ plans to help millions lose weight just a day after they announced a ‘stupid’ move to offer cut-price meals.
Experts yesterday savaged Chancellor Rishi Sunak‘s ‘Eat Out’ scheme, branding it a ‘green light for junk food’ for allowing up to £10-a-head discounts for Britons eating out in August at chains including Burger King.
It came on the same day England’s deputy chief medical officer urged people to lose weight ahead of another potential Covid-19 wave this winter. The UK has the second highest obesity rate in Europe, with two-thirds of adults and a third of children overweight.
The Prime Minister himself has already warned Britain needs to slim down to protect themselves from the coronavirus, after he reportedly blamed his own weight on his near-death battle with Covid-19 which left him in intensive care.
In an attempt to make Britain slimmer, Boris Johnson is also expected to re-consider making it mandatory to put calorie counts on restaurant and takeaway menus
Campaigners today attacked the plans. Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, told MailOnline it is ‘high time’ the PM gets his ‘strategy sorted out’
WHY DOES OBESITY RAISE THE RISK OF DYING FROM COVID?
Those who are overweight and unfit have lower lung capacity than healthy people, which makes it hard to get oxygen and blood around the body.
When COVID-19 strikes it makes it more difficult to breath and blocks the flow of oxygen even more, which eventually overwhelms the bodies of obese people.
This is the reason why overweight and obese people in intensive care are more likely to need assistance with breathing and support with kidney function, experts say.
Being severely overweight leads to larger quantities of ACE2 in the body, the enzyme hijacked by the virus to enter the body.
The more viral load that invades the body, the worse the severity of the illness and harder it is for the immune system to fend off.
Doctors say the immune systems of fat people are constantly ramped up as they try to protect and repair the damage inflammation causes to cells.
Using all its energy fending off inflammation means the body’s defence system has few resources left to defend against a new infection like Covid-19.
Obese people also tend to eat a diet with very little fiber and antioxidants – which keep the immune system healthy – such as fruit and vegetables.
Efforts to crack down on Britons’ excess weight have been given new impetus after it emerged that fat people are more at risk of death and serious ill health from Covid-19.
Officials are drawing up plans that include greater use of bariatric surgery – such as gastric bands – as part of a wider fitness programme that includes diet advice and family exercise plans.
Obesity campaigners have for years argued that junk food adverts should be banned before 9pm to curb spiralling childhood obesity rates.
But among the measures set to be rolled out to fight obesity, Mr Johnson is not expected to implement any watershed on marketing for foods high in sugar and fat, The Times reports.
Whitehall sources claim that ministers aren’t as convinced by the scientific evidence on banning junk food adverts in the fight against obesity.
However, studies have shown that watching one extra advertisement a week leads to children eating up to 18,000 extra calories each year.
The newspaper also claimed the measures Downing Street is set to take are just the first set of interventions to tackle obesity.
Mr Johnson prompted criticism when he declared a war on ‘sin taxes’ last summer, promising to review the flagship sugar levy on fizzy drinks.
His pledge – made during the Tory leadership race – sparked fury from campaigners who accused Mr Johnson of ‘turning back the clock’.
Campaigners today attacked the plans. Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, told MailOnline it is ‘high time’ the PM gets his ‘strategy sorted out’.
He said: ‘It defies belief that, within just 24 hours, Downing St has both given permission for restaurants to profit from selling junk meals yet announce that supermarkets will be banned from including junk food in BOGOF promotion deals.’
He added: ‘In terms of tackling obesity the former measure is as stupid as the latter is sensible.
How some of the country’s favourite dishes could be discounted under the Chancellor’s deal – with the potential of even further price cuts if restaurateurs pass on VAT cut to customers
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the deal to try and stimulate the economy
‘It would be hard to think of a better way of confusing the public into what to eat and what not to.
‘As Boris Johnson goes to wage war on fat it is high time that he gets his strategy sorted out.’
How you can get £10 off at restaurants and pubs under Rishi Sunak’s meal deal
Food lovers will be able to grab a meal at some of the country’s best-loved restaurants for little more than £10.
Diners will receive a 50 per cent discount, up to a maximum of £10 per head, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the month of August, under Rishi Sunak’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.
The diner discount, which will only apply to participating business, was announced today by the chancellor.
But penny-pinching Britons have already started to come up with ways to maximise their savings from the scheme, which covers food and non-alcoholic drinks, but not booze.
One Twitter user pointed out that Amex cardholders paying at an Amex UK Shop Small restaurant vendor could get £5 back on top of the £10 discount for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
Others pointed out that diner’s could save more by eating less – or at cheaper restaurants – because the 50 per cent discount goes up to a maximum of £10 per head.
So if a meal costs £20, the diner will get £10 off, but if a meal costs £30, the diner will still only get £10 off.
It means those who visit two restaurants and spend £20 each time can save £20, compared to one £40 dinner, which would result in a £10 saving.
As well as the Eat Out to Save Out deal, Mr Sunak also announced a cut VAT, from 20 per cent to 5 per cent, for six months for the hospitality industry.
He said it would apply to eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafes and pubs, accommodation in hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites and attractions like cinemas, theme parks and zoos.
With the Eat Out to Help Out deal, businesses will claim the money back from the Treasury, which is expected to spend £500million on the scheme.
Restaurants and pubs are expected to announce their involvement over the coming weeks.
Those business that want to take part in the scheme will have to register through a website that opens on Monday.
The deal applies to restaurants, cafés, and pubs which apply to be part of the scheme.
Under Mr Sunak’s scheme, Brits will get 50 per cent off the cost of most meals from Monday to Wednesday in August.
It means an £80 restaurant bill for a family of four would come to £40. But a couple spending £45 would pay £25.
Soft drinks will be included in the deal although alcohol will not. But the discount will only apply to participating businesses.
Meals must be consumed on the premises so takeaway food won’t count and the Eat Out to Help Out discount can be used ‘unlimited times’.
Officials considered dishing out vouchers to everyone but decided it would lead to an increased risk of fraud and would take longer to administer.
Mr Fry – who praised No 10 for pledging a war on fat in May – said Mr Sunak’s initiative felt like the ultimate buy one, get one free deal.
He said: ‘This looks like the mother and father of Bogofs and a green light to promote any old junk menu that the participating restaurant feels it can get away with.
‘With obesity rates ever increasing and now firmly linked to Covid-19, who wants more of the same?
‘Given a little thought Mr Sunak’s scheme to put bums on seats could have been a great idea to educate people into eating better.’
Action on Sugar also laid into the Eat Out to Help Out push, saying money should have been directed to a healthy eating drive.
A spokesman insisted: ‘We need joined up policy making that ensures everyone can access healthy food.
‘Discounts on unhealthy food and drink when the focus should be promoting healthy options and better labelling.
‘This could have been an opportunity to discount healthy options that would benefit everyone.’
Mr Sunak’s announcement came on the same day England’s deputy CMO said Brits could protect themselves against Covid-19 this winter by losing weight.
Dr Jenny Harries warned obesity, proven to increase the risk of coronavirus-infected patients dying, was a risk the UK could ‘do something about’ ahead of winter.
She admitted she was ‘very, very concerned’ about a the threat of second wave of the virus this winter, warning it is ‘still out there’.
Last month the Prime Minister claimed he was going to put Britain on a diet to help people become fighting fit ahead to tackle coronavirus.
He warned Britons were ‘significantly fatter’ than the rest of Europe and claimed only the population of Malta was more overweight.
The Prime Minister insisted the issue was costing lives and leaving the the NHS with huge bills.
But he refused to be drawn on whether he would back state interventions, such as higher taxes or banning deals on unhealthy food.
The PM will ignore opposition to ‘nanny state’ policies and launch a crackdown on the nation’s bulging waistlines after coronavirus is defeated, it was reported.
He had told senior advisers that the experience – which he famously said ‘could have gone either way’ – has left him determined to lead a public health drive.
It comes after one doctor claimed that the PM was so badly affected by coronavirus because he was ‘significantly’ overweight.
Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra pointed out other ‘slimmer’ members of the Cabinet – like Health Secretary Matt Hancock – recovered quicker and were not hospitalised.
Mr Johnson, 55, has long struggled with his weight and in 2018 revealed he weighed almost 16 and a half stone, which at 5ft 9in puts him in the high risk category.
Dr Malhotra said: ‘After old age poor diet is by far the most important driver of the conditions that have tragically and unnecessarily killed thousands of people from Covid-19.
‘Globally it is responsible for more disease and death than physical activity, smoking and alcohol combined.
‘If the The Prime Minister is serious about improving the health of the nation he needs to tackle head on ultra-processed and junk food in this country which makes up more than 50 per cent of the British diet.
‘That means protecting the public from the excesses, manipulations and lies of the food industry that target the most vulnerable members of society with false advertising.
‘For far too long they’ve been killing for profit and this needs to stop otherwise I fear there may be even more devastation and misery when the next pandemic comes around.’