Scotland Tries to Forge Ahead


Regarding many issues Scotland, technically part of the United Kingdom, has a tendency to go its own way. Also, the Scots are gratified to claim the moral high ground, compared to the rest of Her Majesty’s subjects. In Scotland, a consumer survey revealed that…

[…] 71% worry about unhealthy foods being on price promotions more often than healthy foods… Meanwhile, 63% are in favor of taxes on unhealthy foods, provided the cost of healthy food falls, and 77% support government intervention to limit sugar, salt and fat content of manufactured foods.

A consumer group called Which? compiled information on 77,000 supermarket promotions, and learned that over half of them touted food considered unhealthful. Pizza and soft drinks topped the list, and in Scotland, three-fourth of the food and drink marketing that kids see is for junk food. The country wants to take the lead on restricting the advertising of junk food on television until after 9 p.m. when, presumably, children are asleep.

When the U.K. introduced its new strategies to combat obesity, the health minister of Scotland, Aileen Campbell, was quoted as being “surprised and disappointed,” especially at the lack of interest in putting a leash on manufacturers’ ability to advertise to kids.

Things that are left up to Scotland to decide for itself are said to be “devolved,” but the regulation of advertising is not devolved, so they pretty much have to put up with whatever the British Parliament decides. Campbell wants the Scottish Parliament to decide instead. Last fall she put forth an action plan in draft form, for others to comment on, and renewed her plea to let Scotland write its own legislation on the advertising of foods laden with salt, sugar, and fat.

One group wants to popularize the terms “core” and “non-core” to describe foods, especially for the benefit of new parents who are trying to figure out what is or is not nutritious.

As always, the industry (here in the form of the Scottish Food and Drink Federation) has its own theories. They say there is no evidence that such government interventions do any good. Some experts would push back against that argument, citing research from other countries. Some experts would say, “This is how discover whether curbing junk food advertising is helpful. We try it out, see? And that is how we gather the evidence of its effectiveness.”

Daniel Kleinberg, deputy director for health improvement in Scotland, feels that obesity is the biggest challenge to public health, and voluntary measures already undertaken are not helping. As in so many other situations, industry self-policing falls short of the desired results.

A study of conditions in the most economically deprived areas of Scotland showed one-fourth of the kids “at risk of having an unhealthy weight.” The Obesity Taskforce challenges the government to come up with some policies that would actually make a difference to the next generation’s health.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Scotland’s obesity offensive begs questions — analysis,”, 11/17/17
Source: “Efforts to tackle childhood obesity in Scotland are failing,”, 12/12/17
Source: “BPS calls for combined approach on childhood obesity in Scotland,”, 03/06/18
Image credit: Visualhunt

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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