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Labour vows to get ‘tougher’ on unhealthy food marketing to kids

The Labour Party has promised to enforce better ways of shielding children from the advertising of unhealthy foods in its bid to “chart a new course towards a healthy nation in the 21st century” should it be elected.

Public health is key to the party’s push for votes in the run up this year’s election in May that will see it highlight the lack of progress in curbing obesity across Britain over the last five years.

In a speech, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham will pledge to clamp down on how foods high in sugar, fat and salt are marketed to children, an area some MPs and public health campaigners have voiced concerns over due to rise of techniques such as “advergames”.

"Labour has traditionally led the way on public health and this new approach will chart a new course towards a healthy nation in the 21st century.

"Children need better protection from the pressures of modern living and the harm caused by alcohol, sugar and smoke and Labour will not flinch from taking the action needed to provide it."

The party also wants to set maximum limits on fat, salt and sugar in food. While brands such as Coca-Cola and Mars have limited the amount of sugar in their products in recent years as part of the industry’s Responsibility Deal with the Government, health experts still claim many people consume more than the recommended intake.

Burnham will reveal that Labour wants improvements to food labelling as well as tackle the excessive consumption of high-strength, low-cost alcoholic drinks. On food labelling, the party will stop short of detailing full plans as efforts to introduce universal traffic light system have been stifled because of kickback from the industry and the need for mandatory rules to be agreed at an EU level.

Burnham said that unless firm action was taken to resolve the nation’s obesity epidemic it would force NHS costs to rise from £10bn to £17bn a year by 2035. Government figures show that 15 per cent of the population aged 15 and under are still obese.

Smoking has also been marked as a key battleground on health in Labour's bid for election. It is to promise the introduction of plain cigarette packaging immediately should it be elected to “halt the industry’s increasingly sophisticated methods of recruiting new, young smokers”.