Speaking at the Sugar Reduction Summit in London today, UK Member of Parliament (MP) Berger said the Labour party has ruled out any taxation of fatty or sugary products - adding that the party would instead focus on reformulation and partnering with industry. However, the shadow health minister said that if elected her political party "will work to protect children from health risks" including unhealthy foods and the marketing of such foods.
"When it comes to children's health, Labour wants to tackle a system that is stacked against parents, and takes control away from parents. We want to restore parents power over what they eat," said Berger. "But with families facing a cost of living crisis, it would not be right or fair to impose taxes on sugary and fatty foods as some have advocated."
No sugar tax
"Let me be very clear with you today, and reinforce that point that we will not be seeking to introduce fat or sugar taxes," said Berger.
"But we are actively considering regulations to limit sugar fat and salt in food marketed to children and will continue to listen on this issue," the MP reiterated - adding that should regulation happen, the future Labour government would work with industry on the issue 'over the details and implementation'.
"At the heart of our approach is partnership with industry," said Berger. "But also at the heart of our approach is the need to tackle health inequalities."
Berger noted that rise of food processing, coupled with a reduction in the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, and food reformulation has meant "unwittingly we are eating more fat, salt, and sugar than we realise."
"We used to make the decision ourselves to add sugar to our cereal. Now it is added before it even reaches our bowls," she said.
"We want to see fewer people suffering the ill effects of over consumption of sugar, whether it is diabetes, obesity or tooth decay. And we will achieve this by encouraging people to eat less sugar."
However, Berger added that in this, there has to also be a question over 'the rightful place of government' and the effectiveness of public health messaging.
Online marketing rules
The shadow health minister told the summit that hospitals need 'consistent standards' for healthy and nutritious foods, while supermarkets must take more responsibility to inform consumers through front of pack labelling.
"We also need to make sure that regulations are fit for purpose to reduce the exposure of children to foods that are high in fat sugar and salt, and I am particularly concerned about the challenges of online advertising and promotion," said Berger - adding that the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is currently reviewing 'advergaming'.
"I would welcome a tougher set of online guidelines to protect children."