18 August 2016

Following the unveiling of the Childhood Obesity Strategy today leading oral health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, have described it as an absolute disaster which will lead to another lost generation of children experiencing entirely unnecessary oral health problems. 

The charity is supported in their disappointment by leading oral health organisation, the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT), who labelled the strategy as a substantial backwards step in addressing the UK's children's oral health crisis.

The final Childhood Obesity Strategy has ironically been described as being ‘significantly watered down' after omitting what has previously been regarded as necessary regulations to make a tangible difference to children's health in Britain.

The most glaring omissions include a blanket ban on junk food advertising during family TV shows and a ban on firms using cartoon characters in advertising. The strategy has also excluded an expected clampdown on multi-buy promotions for unhealthy food in supermarkets.

Speaking on the release of the strategy, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation spoke of the unnecessary harm it will cause to thousands of children in the UK as well as for generations to come.

Dr Carter said: "Today's Childhood Obesity Strategy is a disaster. Despite the strategy being focussed on tackling obesity, the knock on effect it would have had on oral health was enormous and what we have seen today spells bad news for generations of our children.

"Tooth extraction is the single biggest reason for children being admitted to hospital for general anaesthetics in the UK. More than 33,000 young people have to get rotten teeth removed every year in hospital, yet this is entirely preventable if the necessary provisions are put in place.

"We are incredibly disappointed but sadly not surprised by this move. The government continue to ignore the children's oral health crisis we are experiencing in the UK and are putting the wellbeing of millions of people a risk by bowing to pressure from the food and drink industry.

"We will continue to lobby the government for more decisive action and apply pressure on the food and drink industry until a telling change is made."

Michaela ONeill, President of the BSDHT, added: "As dental professionals we see first-hand the devastating effect that too much sugar has on our children's oral health. It is heart-breaking to see so many of them suffering unnecessarily.

"This was an opportunity for the government to make a real difference and we are incredibly disappointed to have to take a huge leap backwards in the fight against preventable oral health problems.

"Hundreds of health bodies have campaigned vigorously for the government to ban junk food adverts on TV before the 9pm watershed as a fundamental measure to help reduce the nation's sugar intake.

"Along with banning firms using child friendly cartoon characters in advertising and a ban on multi-buy promotions in supermarkets it would have given people in the UK the best possible chance of a healthy life and reduce the amount of sugar we consume.

"We are encouraging parents and children to avoid a future of poor oral health by taking it into your own hands. The best way to do this is by ensuring you brush their teeth for two minutes last thing at night and at least one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste; cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks and visit your dental professional regularly, as often as they recommend."

The Oral Health Foundation believe the Childhood Obesity Strategy has become a victim of recent changes in the Department of Health which has seen three key anti-sugar lobbyists leave; Alistair Burt MP, Ben Gummer MP and Jane Ellison MP.

The charity believes these losses have left the sugar agenda short of some influential support and it is now in danger of losing some of the momentum it has gained recently through the introduction of the proposed sugar tax.