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Politicians side-tracked by sugar taxes

Politicians have been distracted by sugar taxes rather than led the fight to tackle obesity from all angles, according to Richard Dobbs, senior partner at McKinsey and lead author of his firm’s seminal report on obesity in 2014.

Dobbs claimed there is a “real gap in political leadership”. Politicians and policymakers are not as concerned by obesity as they should be, he said, as he highlighting the “massive economic burden” the issue is placing on health services.

Dobbs and his team calculated that obesity has the same global economic impact as armed violence, war and terrorism, and only a shade less than smoking.

To tackle the crisis, governments have to pull a number of policy levers, from reformulation and portion control to taxes and advertising restrictions, but few are doing so, Dobbs said in an interview this month with EU Observer.

Some have got close only to back away. “Politicians need to get comfortable with intervening,” he said.

Regulation could also help provide the level playing field some of the large food corporations now appear to be demanding, he added. “Talk to McDonald’s and they’re happy to do their bit … but they want that level playing field so the chip shops are [taking action] too.”