The College has called for action to make healthy food more affordable for hard-pressed working families in Scotland, ahead of an expected announcement on the Scottish Government’s strategy to improve diet and weight. It is hoped that the new Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman MSP, will consider such a proposal, bringing a fresh pair of eyes to the obesity issue.

Whilst both the UK Government and Scottish Government have understandably focused heavily on reducing the promotion of food and drink which is high in fat, sugar and salt, the College believes that active promotions of unprocessed foods – such as fruit, vegetables, fish, and poultry – would help tackle obesity by making healthier food more affordable.

The College has stressed, however, that such promotions must be planned responsibly – and believes that the Scottish Government could introduce guidelines to this effect. It was also pointed out that healthy eating choices must be backed up by improved levels of physical activity in Scotland.

Finally, the College has suggested that without a radical change in cooking habits, the popularity of ready meals, which are high in fat and salt content, will continue. The convenience food revolution from the 1950’s onwards will only be reversed by attitudinal change. Education in what to eat, how to cook it and a change in time priorities – for example, making time to prepare food – is vital.

Commenting, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Professor Derek Bell OBE said:

“Whilst it’s true that we must be responsible as individuals for what we eat, the College would like to see action to make healthy food more affordable for hard working families, and for those on lower wages. The Scottish Government’s forthcoming obesity strategy would be a good opportunity make progress in this area, along with action to improve physical activity levels. Physical activity is linked to a healthy lifestyle, alongside healthy eating.

“It’s good to see action being taken to curb the promotion of unhealthy foods, but without affordable, alternative, healthy choices, we may end up in a situation where the weekly shop becomes even more expensive for consumers. We would, therefore, like to see the encouragement of supermarket promotions by companies who offer products which are low in sugar, salt and fat. This should be considered to make such products a popular choice in terms of cost, and to ‘reward’ the healthy choice companies in terms of sales for responsible production.

“Finally, promotions through loyalty or reward card points and price reduction coupons should be considered for healthier foods. Promotions often apply to large packs sizes or nutritionally unbalanced foods, and may encourage over-purchasing".

Paul Gillen

Contact: Paul Gillen 0131 247 3658