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UK announces obesity plan as PM admits weight 'struggle'

The British government wants to do something about the country's bulging waistlines
The British government wants to do something about the country's bulging waistlines Lindsey Parnaby AFP/File
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London (AFP)

Restaurants will have to display calories on menus under plans announced by the British government on Monday to tackle the country's obesity problem, made more urgent by the coronavirus crisis.

Other measures outlined include bans on "buy one get one free" deals on unhealthy items, junk food television adverts being aired before 9pm and a "consultation" on placing calorie labels on alcohol.

It is not the first time a British government has attempted to do something about the country's bulging waistlines, but this latest attempt has been prompted by the pandemic.

Analyses show that nearly eight percent of critically-ill patients in intensive care units with the virus were categorised as morbidly obese, compared with less than three percent of the general population.

Two-thirds of UK adults are above a healthy weight, with 36 percent overweight and 28 percent obese, according to government data.

"Losing weight is hard but with some small changes we can all feel fitter and healthier," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Johnson required intensive care treatment in April after catching the virus.

To accompany the launch of the "Better Health Strategy", Downing Street posted a video of Johnson on Twitter on Monday, walking a dog and talking about his own "struggle" with weight.

The British premier has previously criticised government attempts to spur weight control but said the latest initiative would not be enforced "in an excessively bossy or nannying way".

The move to include calories on menus would be placed on restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 employees.

Another potential measure announced on Monday was a proposal to ban the placing of sweets and chocolate bars at supermarket checkouts.

A Public Health England study published on Saturday found that obesity increased the risk of death from coronavirus by 40 percent.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said it was "a landmark day for the nation's health".

However, the main opposition Labour party's health spokesman Alex Norris criticised the new initiative, saying the policies amounted to little more than "big promises".

"An effective obesity strategy needs action, not consultation," said Norris.

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