'A green light for junk food': Campaigners blast Eat Out to Help Out

‘A green light for junk food’: Obesity campaigners blast Rishi Sunak’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme launched on SAME day government tells Britons to lose weight or risk catching Covid this winter

  • Chancellor announced up to £10 a head would be knocked off eating out bills
  • Huge chains including fast food giants are expected to confirm taking part 
  • Obesity campaigners have warned it could encourage unhealthy menus
  • National Obesity Forum boss said scheme was a ‘green light for junk food’
  • Action On Sugar called for ‘joined-up policy making’ and money for health drive 
  • It came on the same day one of England’s top medics urged people to get fit
  • Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said public needed to lose weight

Obesity campaigners have savaged the government’s plan to offer cut-price meals branding it a ‘green light for junk food’.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced yesterday up to £10 a head will be cut off the bills of people eating out in August.

But as names like Burger King confirmed themselves as part of the scheme obesity campaigners questioned the timing of the meal deal bonus.

It came on the same day England’s deputy chief medical officer urged people to lose weight ahead of a potential second coronavirus wave in the winter.

And Prime Minister Boris Johnson had already warned the public needed to slim down to protect themselves from the virus.

Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, claimed it was a ‘green light’ to ‘any old junk menu’

Action on Sugar called for a ‘joined-up policy’ to promote health eating, not junk food

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the deal to try and stimulate the economy

Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum said Mr Sunak’s initiative felt like the ultimate buy one, get one free deal – a type of offer previously condemned by health campaigners.

He said: ‘This looks like the mother and father of Bogofs and a green light to promote any old junk menu that the participating restaurant feels it can get away with.

‘With obesity rates ever increasing and now firmly linked to Covid-19, who wants more of the same?’

Action on Sugar also laid into the Eat Out to Help Out push saying money should have been directed to a healthy eating drive.

A spokesman insisted: ‘We need joined up policy making that ensures everyone can access healthy food.

‘Discounts on unhealthy food & drink when the focus should be promoting healthy options and better labelling. ‘This could have been an opportunity to discount healthy options that would benefit everyone.’

Dr Jenny Harries warned coronavirus hit obese people worse so she urged people to try and lose weight ahead of a possible second wave in the winter

It came on the same day England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said Britons could protect themselves against Covid-19 by losing weight if the disease struck again.

Dr Jenny Harries warned obesity, proven to increase the risk of coronavirus-infected patients dying, was a risk the UK could ‘do something about’ ahead of winter.

She admitted she was ‘very, very concerned’ about a the threat of second wave of the virus this winter, warning it is ‘still out there’ and Britons should keep protecting themselves.

Fast food chains offering burgers and chips have confirmed they will be part of the deal

Campaigners fear the offer could spark unhealthy food choices when obesity is a problem

Dr Harries said: ‘I think myself and colleagues are very, very concerned about looking out for a potential second peak as we move into the autumn.

‘And of course that’s the same time that we start having people presenting with other symptoms which could confuse people – so flu symptoms vary, obviously, and also when our hospitals get busier.

‘Make yourself as fit as possible, keep practising that social distancing over the winter.’

Under the scheme, Britons will get 50 per cent off the cost of most meals from Monday to Wednesday in August. It means an £80 restaurant bill for a family of four would come to £40. But a couple spending £45 would pay £25.

Soft drinks will be included in the deal although alcohol will not.

Meals must be consumed on the premises so takeaway food won’t count. However, the Government is already making it easier for pubs, restaurants and cafes to turn pavements, terraces and even car parks into outdoor seating areas. The Eat Out to Help Out discount can be used ‘unlimited times’.

Officials had considered dishing out vouchers to everyone, but decided it would lead to an increased risk of fraud and would take longer to administer.

Businesses will need to register on the Government website to take part, with full details due to be published next week.

Mr Sunak said yesterday: ‘This moment is unique, we need to be creative.

‘To get customers back into restaurants, cafes and pubs and protect the 1.8million people who work in them, for the month of August we will give everyone in the country an Eat Out to Help Out discount.’

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