Ministers have been urged not to ban the hit TV show The Great British Bake Off amid calls for a curb on cookery programmes to tackle the UK's "obesity epidemic".

It comes after a peer pressed for Government action over the “disturbing” number of food shows on TV and radio.

Steps were also called for to tackle the problem of obesity among NHS staff, because of the obstacles this created to getting across the public health message on losing weight.

Independent Liberal Democrat Baroness Tonge said: “In view of the fact the Government is quite rightly worried about the obesity epidemic, could they do anything about the number of television and radio programmes that promote food and cooking and baking and gourmet meals?

“I find it very disturbing and it makes me hungry.”

Responding, health minister Lord Prior of Brampton said: “The Government will be producing its childhood obesity strategy later this summer and I am sure that advertising, particularly before the 9pm watershed time, will be addressed in that strategy.”

But Labour health spokesman Lord Hunt of Kings Heath warned: “I hope that doesn’t mean Bake Off is going to be removed from our screens as a result of the strategy.”

Independent crossbencher Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a leading palliative care consultant, asked the minister what was being done to tackle the problem of obesity among NHS staff.

“Because it’s very difficult for the public to get a public health message about losing weight from a member of staff who is frankly obese,” she said.

Lord Prior said: “She makes a very important point. I think that is what lies behind the decision of the chief executive of NHS England to address the presence of unhealthy food and drinks on NHS properties and encourage staff to live a much healthier lifestyle.”

Tory peer Baroness Jenkin of Kennington declared an interest as someone who had been technically obese.

She said: “I am well aware of how difficult it is to lose the weight and to keep it off.

“But would the minister agree the solution is simple but not easy, which is that we should eat less and healthily and to move more.

“And if we don’t do this and if the Government doesn’t grip it, both the NHS and a substantial number of the population’s lives will collapse under the weight of the problem.”

Lord Prior said: “Can I say she looks far from obese today. She looks possibly svelte I think today.”

He added: “I agree with her, obesity is a massive problem facing the country. The chief executive of NHS England referred to it as the new smoking.

“It’s critical that we address it.”

Conservative Lord Lang of Monkton sought guidance over the mixed messages being sent out about what was healthy to eat.

The peer was speaking after a report suggested people should not be afraid of eating fat.

The National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration called for a “major overhaul” of current dietary guidelines because encouraging people to stick to low fat diets was harming their health.
Lord Prior said: “He is as confused about this as most of us are.”

All the evidence reinforced the existing advice issued by Public Health England, but the minister acknowledged: “It has indeed been very muddied over the last five days.”

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