CLWYD SOUTH AM KEN SKATES has used a debate in the Assembly to call for new legal limits to be placed on food products marketed at young children.
Local AM Ken Skates recently met a group of schoolchildren from Rhosllanerchrugog and Penycae in his constituency who inspired the debate in the Senedd this week.
The AM said rising food prices, shrinking household budgets and increased heating costs were forcing families and schools to make difficult choices about food that were having a negative impact on the nutritional health of young people.
The AM called for bold action and said new limits could be placed on the sugar, fat and caffeine content of food specifically aimed and marketed at children.
Speaking during his Short Debate on the ‘Nutritional Recession’ on Wednesday, Clwyd South AM Ken Skates said:
“I am very concerned that these tough economic times are taking a very heavy toll on the nutritional health of Wales.
“Rising wholesale food prices, shrinking incomes and increased fuel and heating bills are leading to pressures on the weekly household shop, lower fruit and veg consumption rates and pressures on school food budgets that is storing up problems for the long term nutritional health of Wales.
“The increased cost of food, up 32% over the past five years, has meant the least well-off consumers are re-focusing their increasingly stretched household food budgets on unhealthy, processed meals at the expense of fresh produce such as fish, meat and fruit.
“According to the Welsh Health Survey, in 2008 33 per cent of adults in Wales that have never worked or are long-term unemployed reported eating five portions of fruit and vegetables the previous day. This had fallen to 22 per cent by 2011.
“Food poverty is not just about worrying about the individuals who start or end the day with no food, it’s also about the people who start and end the day filled with the wrong type of food, putting themselves at long-term risk of conditions such as heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol and diabetes.
“The inspiration for this debate came from discussions I had recently with local schoolchildren in Rhos and Penycae in my constituency. We got talking about the lunchboxes and snacks they took to school. They told me about the concerns they had about the impact sugar, fat and caffeine in their food and drinks was having on their concentration and behaviour.
“Just last week, Wrexham Council reported income for school dinners had fallen by a staggering £170,000 due to rising prices and fewer working parents being able to pay for their children to receive a hot meal.
“We need a food revolution in Wales and a broader, more sophisticated understanding of the difference between fresh, unprocessed food on the one hand and high sugar, high fat and highly processed food on the other. We may also need to look at legal limits on the amount of fat, sugar and caffeine in products sold and marketed towards young people.
“The great irony is that Wales produces some of the finest food, produce and ingredients in the world – our supply chain should be the most sustainable in the world, but it isn’t.
“The average time taken to prepare the day’s main meal is now down to just 34 minutes, having fallen sharply over time. Not only do we risk leaving this generation economically worse off, but we also risk leaving them nutritionally worse off as well.”