Hain criticises minister over chocolate firm's sports promotion

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The Leader of the Commons, Peter Hain, has criticised sports minister Richard Caborn for backing a controversial scheme devised by chocolate firm Cadbury.

The Leader of the Commons, Peter Hain, has criticised sports minister Richard Caborn for backing a controversial scheme devised by chocolate firm Cadbury.

Mr Hain hit out at Mr Caborn's support for plans to encourage pupils to swap chocolate wrappers for school sports equipment.

The scheme, which was launched last year but later dropped, required a total of 5,440 wrappers to be collected to secure a football net.

Mr Hain was speaking about the obesity epidemic on the BBC1 Question Time programme last night.

He said the curbing of childhood obesity needed a balance between action from parents and the Government, and checks on food advertisements aimed at youngsters.

The debate followed a Commons Health Committee report which condemned ministers, the NHS, food manufacturers and advertisers for not doing enough to tackle the nation's expanding waistlines.

Their report made recommendations to kick-start weight loss amid gloomy predictions of a future where serious diseases caused by obesity are common and children become the first generation to die before their parents.

But not all the measures were welcomed by the food industry, while the Health Secretary John Reid said individuals also had a major role to play in their own health.

The committee's report, which follows a year-long inquiry, points out that obesity has grown by almost 400% in 25 years, with three-quarters of adults now overweight or obese.

England has the fastest growing obesity problem in Europe, with childhood obesity tripling in 20 years.

The report calculates that being overweight or obese costs the nation £7.4 billion a year.

The committee called for a voluntary withdrawal of TV advertising of junk food to children.

They particularly highlighted high-profile campaigns using sports stars and celebrities to promote crisps and chocolate.

But they warned that if action was not taken by the industry within three years, the Government should step in to introduce more direct regulation.

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