An updated government app will use barcodes to encourage families to switch to healthier food as part of efforts to tackle Britain’s child obesity crisis.
The new feature, part of the government’s Better Health campaign, can be used to scan shopping items and suggest alternatives which contain less saturated fat, sugar or salt. Families using the NHS Food Scanner app will also be shown a ‘Good Choice’ badge for items which could help improve their diet, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
Lockdowns, school closures and sports activities being suspended have meant many children spent less time doing physical activity than usual in the past year. Increased screen time may have also increased children’s exposure to adverts for unhealthy food and takeaway services, potentially influencing food choices. There has been a record rise in obesity among 10- to 11-year-olds, and new data suggests one-in-four children of reception school age are overweight or obese which rises to four-in-10 by Year 6, according to the DHSC.
A new survey conducted jointly by the department and Netmums, a UK parenting website, suggests nearly six-in-10 parents have given their children more sugary or fatty food since the start of the pandemic.
Public health minister, Maggie Throup MP, said that the ‘pressure’ faced by families throughout the pandemic meant dietary habits had ‘drastically changed’ as a result, said:
“The new year is a good time for making resolutions, not just for ourselves, but for our families. Finding ways to improve their health is one of the best resolutions any of us could make.”
Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at the DHSC, said advertisements promoting unhealthy food to children were contributing to the problem, said:
“It’s not surprising that parents say they’ve often found it hard to resist pestering from their children for more unhealthy snacks, and that is why the NHS Food Scanner App is a great tool to help families make quick and easy healthier swaps. It’s so important that children reduce the amount of sugary, fatty and salty foods they eat to help them stay healthy and reduce the risk of health problems such as diabetes and tooth decay.”