Shireen Kassam 0

Calling for an urgent change to the unhealthy food environment

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Open Letter to NHS Leaders and the UK Government, May 13th, 2020

We, NHS doctors and staff, are writing to urge NHS leaders and the Government to pass bold post-COVID-19 legislation to allow for rapid, nationwide changes to the obesogenic and unsustainable food environment in which we currently live. This environment has added to the UK’s COVID-19 pandemic death toll.

As healthcare professionals we are concerned that business will restart as usual after the pandemic. It is not acceptable that the NHS is collapsing under the burden of chronic diseases, the majority of which could be prevented and treated by addressing diet and lifestyle factors. We are willing to take on the task of shifting the NHS focus from a reactive healthcare system to one that promotes health and prevents chronic illness. However, this action needs to be fully embraced by NHS leaders and the Government, who should now place the nation’s long term health at the centre of their policy.

The proposed changes include:

Taxation and cessation of subsidies for junk food/fast foods/soft drinks producers as well as industrial animal farming.

Ban on junk food advertising and any market manipulations which aim to increase consumption of unhealthy, processed foods or drinks.

Subsidies to support the UK population in adopting a predominantly whole food plant based diet for both human and planetary health.

Promotion of a plant-based food system through the adoption of Conservation Agriculture (No-Till) systems to lower carbon emissions and reduce the risk of entering a ‘post-antibiotic era’.

Protection of the oceans by discouraging over-fishing and reducing the reliance on fish consumption, finding alternate sources of long-chain omega-3 fats.

Showcase healthy, sustainable eating through public sector catering in schools and hospitals.


Three in four of the world’s new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic and are mainly transmitted through wildlife trade and factory farming.

The provision for the increasing demand for cheap meat is hugely contributing to environmental degradation and the rise of antibiotic resistance.

90% of global wild fish stocks have been over-fished or fished at capacity. Farmed fish are contaminated with antibiotics and chemicals that pose a risk to human health.

A diet high in processed foods and animal products is driving the epidemic of chronic disease and increasing the risk of dying from COVID-19. This is of particular concern for communities of lower socio-economic means and is disproportionately affecting minority ethnic communities.

NHS leaders and the Government need to act in the interests of the people and the planet rather than the interests of the corporate sector, who have contributed to the current climate and healthcare crisis through aggressive lobbying and marketing techniques.

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