Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Infant & Dietetic Foods Association (PAC 00-01/136)


  The Infant and Dietetic Foods Association (IDFA) is the trade association representing UK manufacturers of infant and dietetic foods including formula slimming diets. Through its Slimming Foods Working Group, IDFA aims to promote high standards of safety and probity in the manufacture and marketing of slimming foods.


  In February 2001, The National Audit Office (NAO) published a Report on Tackling Obesity in England which identified that:

    —  obesity in men and women has tripled since 1980;

    —  1 in 5 adults is now obese, potentially rising to 1 in 4 adults by 2010;

    —  two thirds of men and over half of women are overweight or obese; and

    —  obesity in England is growing faster than in other European countries.


  For the individual, obesity has severe health implications and is associated with a wide range of diseases including:

    —  coronary heart disease, including stroke;

    —  certain cancers;

    —  high blood pressure;

    —  diabetes;

    —  gallstones;

    —  osteoarthritis; and

    —  anxiety and depression.

  For society there are also cost implications. The NAO estimated that:

    —  obesity costs the National Health Service up to £0.5 billion per year;

    —  total costs to the wider economy are over £2 billion per year;

    —  18 million working days are lost due to weight related illness; and

    —  obesity caused 30,000 premature deaths in 1998 alone.


  Obesity occurs when an individual gains enough weight such that it seriously endangers health. Some people are more susceptible to weight gain for genetic reasons, but the main cause of obesity is consuming more calories than we need in our daily life.

  There are many reasons why this might happen including eating too much, increased sedentary lifestyle, age, gender, genetic and environmental factors. However, changes in dietary habits in recent years have contributed to a situation where we take in more energy than we need.


  There are many effective ways to lose weight including increased physical exercise, drug therapy, surgery, dietary advice, and formula slimming diets. It is important to match individuals to specific treatments. Some of these methods are best suited to particular degrees of overweight and often more than one option achieves the best results.

  Prevention is also important particularly as being overweight can lead to obesity. Overweight is also easier to treat than obesity, so methods of weight loss that really work are necessary even for the pre-obese.


  The NAO report identified that only 13 per cent of Health Authorities have a plan in place specifically to prevent or treat obesity and that management of overweight and obese patients within the NHS is patchy. It also acknowledges that support and counselling are important elements in successful intervention. The NHS could not cope with an increasing overweight and obese population. Private sector options are, therefore, essential.

  The NAO makes recommendations about the co-ordination of government policy on the management of obesity. IDFA supports initiatives on healthy eating and increased physical exercise, but these initiatives alone will not be enough. Overweight and obesity arise for a variety of reasons and require a variety of solutions. Clinically proven formula diets are one such solution. As proven safe and effective weight loss methods they should not be overlooked as one tool in the fight against overweight and obesity. IDFA seeks a national weight management policy that encompasses all successful options for losing weight—including formula slimming diets.


  Formula slimming diets are nutritionally fortified and balanced, calorie restricted products which help individuals achieve an energy restricted diet without sacrificing nutritional requirements. They:

    —  provide guaranteed nutrition delivering exact energy and nutrient intakes without calorie counting or fuss;

    —  are clinically tested for safety and efficacy, are backed by 20 years of scientific research, and have been used successfully and safely by millions of people world-wide. Studies show that they can also be used successfully in maintaining weight loss;

    —  comply with European legislation and UK standards. European regulations specify the composition of specific categories of slimming products, labelling and advertising. Very low Calorie Diets, soon to be regulated under EU law, currently comply with Department of Health recommendations. Advertising is also subject to The Advertising Standards Association, British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion;

    —  are convenient and easy to use providing a temporary break from food preparation allowing time to re-evaluate lifestyle and re-educate eating habits. Many dieters find that the use of such products keeps them motivated to stay on their diet; and

    —  are palatable and enjoyable enough to be used for long periods—essential since it can take several months to achieve a target weight.


18 April 2001

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 20 August 2001