Warnings on sweets and chocolates are needed to scare children off sugar and help to fight tooth decay and obesity, the British Medical Association has said. The labels could include pictures of rotten teeth and overweight children, although milder “traffic light” warnings may also be considered.
The BMA also wants free toothbrushes for children under five, and for schools to teach children about brushing their teeth to help cut the “shocking” number who need surgery.
A third of children are overweight or obese when they leave primary school and tooth decay is the most common reason for children to be admitted to hospital. The BMA said tougher action was needed after Theresa May dropped plans to curb promotion of junk food in a government obesity strategy last year.
Iain Kennedy of the BMA said 18,000 children under five had been admitted to hospitals in the past two years to have teeth removed, often under general anaesthetic. He said: “Doctors are calling on the government to help prevent further children from needing these operations by regulating food manufacturers to place warnings on sugary foods.”
Mick Armstrong, chairman of the British Dental Association, backed the plans, saying: “These simple steps could ease a huge burden being felt across the NHS. Political indifference has allowed a preventable disease to become the number one reason for hospital admissions among children.”
Graham MacGregor of Action on Sugar said: “We should have warning labels and they should show rotten teeth, people who are obese and amputated legs, because that’s the reality.”