The British Government's flagship Change4Life anti-obesity campaign is being partly funded by food companies that have been linked to weight problems, according to a report.
Published by the medical journal Lancet, the report says that ministers are of the opinion that the push, which includes participation from food companies such as Pepsi and retailers and an 8 million-pound television campaign, may help ease a growing trend which has left one in four Britons obese.
AdvertisementHowever, adds the journal, the decision to allow producers of fatty and sugary foods, which it accuses of contributing to the obesity crisis, to take part in the campaign "beggared belief".
The report warned that the Government was party to sponsorship arrangements with supermarkets "that display rows upon rows of sugary snacks, cereals, and soft drinks."
"So what is the subliminal, or perhaps not so subliminal, take-home message when PepsiCo brings us sports personalities who advocate exercise? If you do exercise, it is OK to drink Pepsi and eat crisps?" the Telegraph quoted it as saying.
"Ill-judged partnerships with companies that fuel obesity should have been avoided," it added.
PepsiCo, the owner of Pepsi and other brands including Tropicana, said that they would promote the benefits of an active lifestyle by involving sports stars in the campaign.
The journal also accused the new adverts of being "simplistic", saying that they show a cartoon stone-age family chase a mammoth and hit a dinosaur with a club, suggesting how families used to have to catch their food.
The journal says that this is contrasted with the sedentary lifestyle of a modern-day family shown eating a pizza and playing computer games.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health insisted that all companies involved in the campaign were expected to adhere to a strict code of conduct.
"We recognise that many organisations have influence with and can reach our target audiences in ways that we cannot. By working with these organisations, we can more effectively tackle the obesity epidemic," he said.
"This is not about saying which companies are good or bad but every company has to sign up to strict terms of engagement before they join us. Every company must help people to eat more healthily and be more active.
"We have a very clear governance structure and will be very tough on companies to comply," he added.
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