Children’s Health: Ultra-processed Foods

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Wednesday 25th October 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as recorded in the register.

I shall start by saying what I agree with in relation to the previous two speakers: namely, that unhealthy diets are a major cause of ill health in the UK, estimated to cause 90,000 deaths a year. The risk is increasing—for example, obesity levels have doubled in the last 30 years—and is strongly linked to deprivation. Children at the age of 11 are twice as likely to be obese if they are in the poorest decile of the population than if they are in the richest decile.

The key question for this debate is: what is the cause of dietary ill health? Is it the content of certain foods—too many calories, too much fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fibre—or the way in which they are made? The UPF concept says it is the latter, but I beg to disagree. Although the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, said there is agreement in the scientific community, that is simply not true. I have studied a number of the original papers and shall highlight two problems.

First, numerous studies have shown that there is no agreement on what UPF is. For instance, in a study published in 2022, a panel of nutrition experts agreed on classification on the NOVA scale for only four out of 231 foodstuffs that they were presented with. Even when the experts were given the ingredients of those foods, they agreed on only three out of 120 items.

Secondly, there is no scientific evidence to show that processing is harmful to health. Most of the evidence that claims to show this comes from epidemiological studies following a large cohort of people over many years and looking for correlations between diet and health outcomes. Correlation does not prove causation, of course, so there are criteria, known as the Bradford Hill criteria, that have to be met before one can infer causation.

I have looked in detail at recent very large epidemiological studies conducted in the UK, France, Spain and the United States. Although they all show correlations, they do not meet the Bradford Hill criteria for inferring causation of a link between consumption of ultra-processed food and ill health. Furthermore, these studies, which were set up many years ago—sometimes decades ago—were not designed to look at UPF, so the dietary records of participants did not include references to it. The researchers had to retrofit a categorisation, and I have said how little agreement there is on the NOVA classification scheme.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, also cited an experimental study carried out by Kevin Hall, but when one reads the paper that study does not show that UPF is harmful. It shows that when people are offered unlimited hyperpalatable food that is high in fat, salt and sugar, they overconsume. They consume more calories; no one disagrees with that and it is hardly surprising, but it has nothing to do with UPF. I therefore agree with the Minister, who has said many times that the real danger in our diets is HFSS, not UPF. For me, the real pity is that the Government, having correctly identified the problem, are doing so little to tackle it. Here I agree with the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley.

Finally, I have tried to take a dispassionate look at the evidence, and one should always be open to the possibility that the evidence will change. But for now, I conclude that UPF is a red herring in the diet and ill-health debate. Since the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, mentioned addiction, the paper published in the British Medical Journal on 9 October does not say that the UPF category in NOVA is addictive. First, it acknowledges that the DSM-5 manual—the standard manual for mental health problems—does not recognise food addiction. Secondly, it says:

“The UPF category … captures foods that may be unlikely to have strong addictive potential”


and that homemade foods, such as homemade cookies,

“may … be addictive but would not be considered a UPF based on the NOVA classification”.

Children’s Health: Sugar

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Tuesday 12th September 2023

(9 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I think one of the things that, hopefully, I have learned in the almost year that I have been answering Questions is when I know the answer to a question and when I do not. I am afraid this is one of the examples of the latter. I will happily look up the Canadian example of the use of whole milk and write to the noble Lord on it.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests, as recorded in the register. I was very pleased to hear the Minister refer to the soft drinks industry levy, which has been a very successful way of reducing sugar consumption in soft drinks. Therefore, do the Government have plans to extend that levy to other products that contain a lot of sugar? That would be a very effective way of reducing sugar consumption.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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The noble Lord is correct; that has been a success story. Overall, we have seen a 46% reduction of sugar, while at the same time sales of drinks in that category have gone up by 21%—that is 60%-plus if you combine the two. We are now looking at other moves that can help. The movement of product positioning to remove the so-called “pester power” is a key step forward in this. Of all the modelling that has been done, that is the thing that it is thought will reduce calories by the most—by 96%. That is the current focus; it has been in place for almost a year and early evidence is that it is working, but as ever we must keep everything under review.

Ultra-processed Food

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Tuesday 18th July 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Absolutely. Some of the foods are not healthy at all, and we totally want to discourage them. We have taken a lot of steps in that space. The whole product positioning strategy, whereby you cannot now put such foods in places where there will be so called pester-power influences, is beginning to have an effect. We are already seeing healthier foods outgrowing non-healthy foods from that. Those sorts of actions were modelled to show that they were effective for 96% of the things that we are trying to target to reduce in terms of calories.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as listed in the register and I hate to disagree with my noble friend Lady Boycott but, on this occasion, I do. Does the Minister agree with the conclusions of the nutritional advisory committee of the five Nordic countries, published on 20 June 2023? It says:

“The … committee’s view is that the current categorization of foods as ultra-processed foods does not add to the already existing food classifications and recommendations”.


Does he also agree with the Brazilian scientists who coined the notion of ultra-processed food when they say that their classification is a good way to understand the food system, but not individual foods?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Yes, the noble Lord is absolutely correct and makes the point that I have been trying to make but far more eloquently; I thank him. That is precisely the point. Some ultra-processed foods are very unhealthy and we should be doing everything we can to discourage them. Others, such as wholemeal bread or baked beans, are totally fine.

Childhood Obesity

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Monday 17th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I thank and agree with my noble friend. He is correct. The cost of obesity to the NHS amounts to around £6.5 billion a year; obviously, this is in addition to not being very good for the people concerned in terms of healthy lifestyles. That is why we have a programme of action, as I outlined. This is something we feel it is important for us to get on with, not just for children but, as the noble Lord referred to, to help adults in this area as well.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, last year, the Government published a report on the promotion of food. I shall quote a few sentences from it:

“Although promotions appear to be mechanisms to help consumers save money, data shows that they increase consumer spending by encouraging people to buy more than they intended to buy in the first place … The latest data shows that we buy almost 20% more as a direct result of promotions. Consumers typically do not stockpile these extra purchases to take advantage of the lower price, instead they increase their consumption.”


It went on to say that the latest data

“shows that shoppers who buy more of their food and drink on promotion tend to purchase more HFSS”—

high-fat, sugar and salt—

“products, in greater volume, and are more likely to be overweight or living with obesity.”

Does the Minister agree with this analysis, published by his Government last year? If so, what are the Government doing about it in policy terms?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord. The figures to which he refers are a mixture of the pricing of these so-called “buy one, get one free”-type promotions and their positioning in a supermarket. In fact, the data shows that as much as a 50% increase in sales can be driven by where these promotions are placed in a supermarket. That is why the focus now is on what changes will be made on 1 October to reduce the purchase of a lot of the types of food groups we are talking about by moving them away from prominent areas. Once we see the results of those changes, we will be in a position to review some of the pricing and promotions to which the noble Lord refers.

Food-related Crime

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Monday 22nd February 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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I am enormously grateful to the noble Baroness for her support in this matter. I reassure her that we are focused and working on it, and I will bring forward an update as soon as I reasonably can.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB) [V]
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My Lords, detecting food crime often depends on trading standards officers and public analysts. Does the Minister consider that the current number of trading standards officers and public analysts is adequate to give the public confidence that food crime is being detected in a timely and comprehensive way? Could he also tell us what progress has been made on detecting honey fraud? It is estimated that about 15% of honey on sale in Europe is adulterated, and it is now over a year since Defra held a seminar on detection methods.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
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The noble Lord undoubtedly knows that, since January 2021, the FSA has been running a 12-month pilot of the new model of working with local authorities on trading standards in order to improve the work between the FSA and trading standards to address any gaps there may be in that collaboration. On the noble Lord’s question about honey fraud, I completely endorse his shock and outrage that the honey that we buy in the supermarket may be adulterated. It is sometimes said that there is 10 times the amount of manuka honey on sale than could ever be possibly made by the bees of New Zealand. There are challenges on nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy allocations, as the noble Lord undoubtedly knows. We are working extremely hard with both Defra and the Laboratory of the Government Chemist to put pressure on international authorities to align the data needed in order to investigate honey more closely.

General Food Law (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Wednesday 6th March 2019

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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My final point is that without information and openness, there are rumours. The whole point about the FSA when it was set up was to rebuild confidence in British food and to be open and transparent. If it is not, it allows rumours to start, with the risk that we will get rumours about alerts we might not be receiving. The media are not stupid; they are looking for headlines all the while. This sort of thing has to be nipped in the bud so that we do not have problems. I do not know what the answer is because once we are out, we are out. We have got something the EU want in terms of information and technology, but being out of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed is highly risky. In some ways it is a reason not to leave the EU, but that is for debate on another day. Whatever the Minister is able to say, it needs to be put on the record that this is incredibly serious for food safety, not just for the United Kingdom but for the rest of the EU if we are out of the system.
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness on her appointment as the Minister in the Lords for health and social care. I would like to pick up on a point mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and to reiterate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. I am also a member of the EU Sub-Committee on Energy and the Environment, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. We heard evidence this morning from the Minister for Public Health and Primary Care and from Heather Hancock, the chair of the FSA. The point that I want to pin down here is the one concerning risk management because we have heard contradictory statements over the past six to nine months about who is going to be in charge of risk management after Brexit day. What we learned is that at the moment, the arrangement is that EFSA produces the risk assessment, the risk management decisions are taken by the standing committee, on which the UK is represented by the Food Standards Agency—and on only rare occasions are decisions on risk management escalated to the Council of Ministers.

Heather Hancock has proposed, and indeed has set up an equivalent arrangement for post Brexit, so there will be an equivalent of the standing committee in which the FSA on behalf of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and Food Standards Scotland will make the risk management decisions. That is her proposal. On the other hand, we have been told on numerous occasions that Ministers intend to take risk management decisions in relation to food safety and standards, which of course would take us right back to the old days before the FSA was set up when Ministers got themselves in a tangle when confronted with having to make difficult decisions about risk management and they sometimes got them wrong. I will not go into detail, but we are all aware of the mistakes that were made in the 1990s. I would like to get confirmation from the Minister of what Steve Brine told us this morning; namely, that it is his intention—I do not believe I am putting words into his mouth—that risk management decisions on most issues will be delegated to the Food Standards Agency. I would like confirmation that that is indeed the Government’s position because we have heard contradictory points of view.

That was my main point. My only other point is that I picked up this morning some difficulty over who is in charge in ministerial terms between Defra and the Department of Health and Social Care. I would like confirmation that it is indeed health Ministers who are accountable to Parliament, even if they are not making decisions. The current situation is that the FSA through the standing committee makes the decisions, but health Ministers account for them in Parliament if necessary. They are a kind of conduit from the Food Standards Agency to Parliament. I would like to hear confirmation that that will remain the case after Brexit and that responsibility will not somehow be split between Defra and the Department for Health and Social Care.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I will make some brief comments. I too welcome the Minister to her position. I also particularly welcome the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, coming back to the Opposition Front Bench. I remember great times when he was a Defra Minister and the work he did when the climate change Bill went through.

I will raise two points that relate in many ways to what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. Although these SIs make technical replacements to make sure that the regulations work, which I accept and understand, subject to my noble friend Lady Walmsley’s question about what has been left out, the whole crux of this comes back to how the structures that enforce and flow from these SIs will work. Is the Minister satisfied that the Food Standards Agency will be sufficiently independent of political influence when it comes to important decisions about consumer safety, food safety and agriculture? At a time of major incidents, decisions taken by Ministers can be very difficult in their effect, in particular on the food processing industry and indeed the agriculture industry.

The other area concerns our meeting with the Minister this morning at the sub-committee. I was very impressed by the chair of the FSA, Heather Hancock, and what she has achieved over time to put all the systems and people in place, but I was not convinced by the liaison between Defra and the Department for health over these negotiations. It seemed that on the question of systems the Minister was not entirely in touch—I do not mean this over-critically—with the negotiations in this area that Defra has undertaken. It is that liaison on which I would like some assurance.

Diesel Emissions

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Wednesday 5th December 2018

(5 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord O'Shaughnessy Portrait Lord O’Shaughnessy
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The noble Baroness is quite right: it is one of the biggest public health problems that we face. It is associated with around 30,000 deaths a year, and that gives us a sense of the scale of the problem. I mentioned the clean air strategy but two specific important pieces of research are also taking place. One is called the Exploration of Health and Lungs in the Environment, which is a London-based study looking at the links between pollution and children’s lung health. The Department of Health and Social Care has also commissioned a review of adverse birth outcomes and early-life effects associated with exposure to air pollution. Therefore, we take this problem seriously and are commissioning research to know not only the consequences but what to do about it.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, it is my understanding that much of the responsibility for delivering the clean air strategy will be delegated to local authorities. Can the Minister confirm that local authorities will be given both the necessary legal powers and the resources to deliver that strategy?

Lord O'Shaughnessy Portrait Lord O’Shaughnessy
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The noble Lord is quite right that local authorities will have a critical role. The clean air strategy is supported by the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England, but it is Defra’s responsibility. I am not able to say any more than that at the moment, but it is clearly a very important strategy being led by the Government, and we will make sure that we support local authorities to do their bit.

Health: Flour Fortification

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Tuesday 21st January 2014

(10 years, 5 months ago)

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Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe
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On my noble friend’s last question, we are slightly jumping ahead of ourselves because we need to decide on the principle before we decide on which types of wheat might be fortified. However, I recognise my noble friend’s main point. Indeed, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, in recommending mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid, sought to highlight the benefits of fortification as well as the risks. It was a balanced recommendation. We value it and we will look at the advice very closely indeed.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, what has the Minister’s department made of its evaluation of folic acid fortification in the many countries that have implemented it, including the United States, as has already been mentioned, Canada and Australia? What has been the balance of risk and benefit in those countries?

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe
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I am aware that we have looked at the experience of other countries, but, as I am sure the noble Lord will accept, we need to take a decision on this that is right for all of our population rather than another country’s population. That is why we want to make the decision evaluating risks and benefits based on the most up-to-date data of the folate status of our own population.

Olympic Legacy (S&T Report)

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Wednesday 11th December 2013

(10 years, 6 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Moved by
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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That the Grand Committee takes note of the Report of the Science and Technology Committee on Sport and exercise science and medicine: building on the Olympic legacy to improve the nation’s health (1st Report, Session 2012-13, HL Paper 33).

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I start by thanking the members of the Science and Technology Select Committee for their excellent contributions to this report, and our specialist adviser, Professor Ian Macdonald, Professor of Metabolic Physiology at the University of Nottingham. I also thank the Minister for the Government’s response to our report. I am particularly delighted to see that the Minister who will respond to the debate is from the Department of Health as many of the recommendations in our report refer to health as well as to sport and exercise.

We conducted the inquiry, which resulted in the report Sport and Exercise Science and Medicine: Building on the Olympic Legacy to Improve the Nation’s Health, during the run-up to the 2012 Olympics. The inquiry had two purposes. First, we wanted to find out how robust the research and evidence base for improving the performance of our elite athletes is. Secondly, we asked how this knowledge for helping elite athletes might be translated into treatments and preventive interventions that could help improve the nation’s health. Our focus was on biomedical research rather than the engineering science that refined and improved the equipment used by elite athletes and amateur sports men and women alike.

Our inquiry included sport and exercise science, which is about understanding the physiology, nutrition, genetics and biomechanics of the human body in order to improve performance as well as sport and exercise medicine, which is about the treatment and prevention of ill health that might arise from exercise: for instance, muscle strain or joint injury. We did not investigate the important issue of behaviour change—how to encourage people to become more active—because we had already completed an inquiry into this topic in 2010. Although we focused on sport, we recognised that exercise includes a much broader range of activities, such as recreational walking, gardening and housework.

Both of our questions were highly relevant to the Government’s two objectives for the Olympics. These were, first, to ensure top performance of our athletes in winning medals and, secondly, as part of the legacy of the Games, to encourage the nation to be,

“healthier, happier and more active”.

On the first of these two objectives, Team GB surpassed expectation, winning more medals than in any Olympics since 1908. The haul of 65 medals, against a target of between 48 and 70, included 29 gold, placing Britain third in the gold medals table and fourth in the total medals table. This was a stunning success, but might the performance of Team GB have been even better with more systematic appliance of better science? One of Team GB’s greatest Olympic successes was in cycling, winning seven out of 10 track cycling gold medals. While the majority of this remarkable success is down to the athletes themselves, it is thought that some of it is attributable to the meticulous attention to detail of Matt Parker, “head of marginal gains”. He analysed down to the last detail the factors that might make that marginal difference between a medal and no medal: techniques such as spraying tyres with alcohol to remove dirt and increase the friction at the start of a race; heated shorts for the cyclists to keep their muscles warm; and measures to reduce the chance of athletes succumbing to performance-diminishing infections may all have contributed to the fraction of a second difference that is needed to win gold instead of silver.

However, as our inquiry showed, even in the outstanding cycling team, not all the techniques believed to enhance performance of elite athletes are based on sound evidence. For instance, we were told by an expert witness that feeding elite athletes large quantities of antioxidants to help muscle recovery not only does not have a beneficial effect but may even be detrimental. So when we look ahead to the next Olympics, there may be room for even better performance by our athletes by deploying the best scientific knowledge.

Our second question was about using scientific knowledge to help the Government’s objective of getting the population as a whole to become healthier through exercise. The health benefits of exercise are undisputed and affect a wide variety of health outcomes. The Department of Health told us that there was research to show that exercise could help to prevent or manage more than 20 chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes and a number of mental health problems. Yesterday’s news story about an article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine lamenting the lack of exercise by children even used the emotive language of “child neglect” to refer to the health problems that will arise because children are not encouraged to do enough exercise.

Scientists do not yet understand the biological mechanisms that give rise to such far-reaching benefits of exercise. One theory is that exercise promotes a process called autophagy, in which worn-out surplus or malformed proteins and other components of our cells are recycled. Perhaps an understanding, through research, of exactly how exercise benefits our bodies would help to improve and enhance the advice to the population at large on exercise, and thereby increase the benefits.

How robust is the research into sport and exercise science and medicine? One fundamental problem of research on elite athletes is that, by definition, there are very few individuals to work on. Furthermore, elite athletes are understandably reluctant to be exposed to invasive measurements that might interfere with their training or become part of a control group in an experiment to test the efficacy of a particular intervention. For this reason, most of the research on elite athletes is observational and anecdotal. That is not to say that all sport science and medicine is weak, but several of our witnesses, including the Physiological Society and the Ministry of Defence, were critical of weak methodologies.

One way to improve the quality of research is to carry out the work on non-elite athletes and the wider public and explore the two-way flow of understanding between those groups and elite athletes. We heard about examples of well known techniques that are supported by good evidence—altitude training to improve stamina, and carbohydrate loading for long-distance runners—as well as those for which there is no evidence of benefit, including taking ice baths after vigorous sport and, as I have already mentioned, taking antioxidant supplements.

UK Sport is the arm’s-length body of DCMS charged with funding research to enhance the performance of elite athletes, with a budget, we were told, of about £20 million over the period between 2009 and 2013. We were surprised that DCMS did not appear to have in place any mechanism to ensure that UK Sport was commissioning science of the highest quality, comparable to that in fields of basic biomedical research. The Government’s response did not specifically address that point, and I would welcome clarification from the Minister about how DCMS carried out that quality assurance.

I now turn again to the relevance of sport and exercise science and medicine to the wider public. Most but not all of our witnesses agreed that the findings from research on elite and non-elite athletes had relevance to the wider population. Examples include the use of exercise and muscle conditioning to improve back and knee pain in osteoarthritis, conditions that affect many people in this country.

Advice to the public on exercise is contained in the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines on physical activity. These guidelines exist, but how many people are aware of them? I have no doubt that all noble Lords in this Room are acutely aware that the CMO recommends that 19 to 64 year-olds do 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week, and that there are specific guidelines for people such as myself who are over 65, but we found in our inquiry no strategy for ensuring that those guidelines were more widely disseminated to the public. Indeed, we were told of one survey of 48 GP practices in 28 London boroughs, which found that none of the GPs was aware of the latest CMO guidelines.

The Government welcomed our recommendation that training at all levels for health professionals should include the need to support the prescription of exercise for both prevention and treatment of ill health. We also suggested that physical activity should be added to the quality outcomes framework for GP practices. I would welcome comment from the Minister on what progress has been made in this area and whether any measurable change in disseminating activity guidelines and encouraging physical activity by health professionals has been achieved.

At the same time, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence—NICE—has a role in ensuring that any prescription of exercise for chronic disease is based on sound evidence. Could the Minister please update us on NICE’s assessments and how they are being translated into recommendations? Many of us who exercise do things that we believe—and are told—are good to do, like stretching before or after exercising, or engaging in muscle-strengthening as well as aerobic exercise. I would be interested to know how robust the evidence is to support these particular pieces of advice and information that are in the general public’s mind.

Finally, I turn to the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, which the Government established as part of their commitment to a lasting public legacy from the Olympic Games, as well as to improve support for elite and non-elite athletes. The Department of Health’s vision for the centre was for it to be,

“a hub of clinical and research expertise”,

used for the following objectives:

“increase exercise in the community; develop strategies to prevent diseases related to inactivity; and prevent, diagnose and manage injuries for both professional and amateur athletes”.

The centre was established with a £30 million grant to three consortia. However, we were told in our inquiry that no ongoing funding for posts or research was provided and therefore there is a question about the sustainability of the centre. We also suggested that the centre should take the lead in developing a national strategy for sport and exercise science and medicine. Could the Minister please update us on the progress of the national centre and how its sustainability is being established, and also on the production of a national strategy?

No one can doubt the importance of sport and exercise. The health of the population at large would be hugely enhanced if people exercised more. The prestige and entertainment provided by our elite athletes was vividly demonstrated by our national success at the 2012 Olympics and by Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph. Science and medicine can make an important contribution to the realisation of these benefits of sport and exercise. The United Kingdom has an absolutely outstanding science base in the biomedical sciences but the evidence that we heard suggested that there is insufficient cross-fertilisation between this excellent science base, carried out in our world-class universities and institutes, and the application of that science to improving the performance of our elite athletes and the health of the nation. I look forward to hearing other noble Lords’ contributions to this debate and the Minister’s reply. I beg to move.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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I thank all those who have taken part in this debate. It has been a privilege to hear the contributions of all noble Lords, but particularly of those who have first-hand experience of participating in elite sports as Olympians or other forms of competing at a very high level.

One theme has come through repeatedly: the huge importance of the health benefits of sport and exercise in tackling the chronic diseases that plague the population of this country and will cost us huge amounts of money in future. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, raised a very important point when he talked about the enjoyment of sport and exercise. Perhaps the key to encouraging people to be more active is to show them the enjoyment that can be obtained from it. He also referred to the art of coaching elite sports men and women. There may well be an art to it but that does not mean there cannot be science as well working alongside the art. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and others about learning the lessons of history and from other countries is immensely important. Although we are obviously doing many things very well, we must not forget the possibility of healthy plagiarism from other countries and the history books.

I thank the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for his responses to the questions raised during the debate. I was encouraged to hear about additional investment in sport and exercise science and medicine, the sustainability of the national centre and the e-learning module that will help professionals to disseminate the importance of exercise to patients and the public at large. I also noted and welcome that he said that there was an emphasis on disseminating and publishing the results of work on elite athletes so that it could benefit the wider community. I still very much hope that a national strategy for sport and exercise science and medicine will emerge in the not-too-distant future, but I am very pleased with the responses obtained.

Motion agreed.

Health: Diet

Lord Krebs Excerpts
Tuesday 13th July 2010

(13 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have for improving the dietary health of the population.

Earl Howe Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe)
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My Lords, we believe it is for individuals to take responsibility for their health, including healthy eating. The Government can put in place ways to make this easier and support people. We are developing our proposals to achieve this.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and declare an interest as a former chairman of the Food Standards Agency. The Minister will be aware that dietary ill health contributes to about 100,000 deaths per year in this country and that during the past 10 years the three major initiatives to improve dietary health have been instigated by the Food Standards Agency: improved labelling, restrictions on the marketing of food to children, and the reformulation of processed food. Why does the Minister think the dietary health of the population will be improved by moving responsibility from the Food Standards Agency to the Department of Health, which has so far shown no interest in this matter? I understand health officials have calculated that it will be more costly to consolidate this responsibility in the Department of Health rather than the Food Standards Agency.

Earl Howe Portrait Earl Howe
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My Lords, first, I pay tribute to the noble Lord’s distinguished chairmanship of the Food Standards Agency. The Government recognise the important role that the agency plays, and a robust regulatory function will continue to be delivered through the FSA. As part of our wider drive to increase the accountability of public bodies, and reduce their number and cost, we are also looking at where some of the functions of the FSA sit best to ensure that they are delivered most efficiently. No decisions have yet been taken, but we are examining the matter carefully.