December 10, 2023

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London Conservatives dispute validity of research on TfL food ad restrictions

GLA Conservatives said the Mayor’s comments were “brazen” considering the 4.5 increase in child obesity in London.

GLA Conservatives have disputed the validity of an independent research on junk food ad restrictions implemented since 2019 on the Transport for London (TfL) network. 

Published yesterday by the University of Sheffield and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the study argued that the ban has prevented almost 100,000 cases of obesity.

It also said the measures would save NHS £200m.

The research was welcomed by London mayor Sadiq Khan, who said he was determined to continue “to improve the health of Londoners.”

Emma Best, health spokesperson for the GLA Conservatives said it was “brazen” for Khan to claim the policy was a success while childhood obesity reported a 4.5 increase in London – the highest in England. 

Best also called the research “junk science.”

“With up to £25 million in lost revenue and a flawed and inconsistent roll-out of this policy, Londoners rightly expect the Mayor to stop pushing dodgy research to cover up his mistakes, and start taking serious action to improve the health of London’s children,” she added. 

Best’s claims were backed by Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs. 

Snowdon argued that the research’s methodology was incorrect as it used misleading modelling and didn’t involve any people in the study. 

“The authors claimed that London households ate 1,000 fewer calories of HFSS [foods high in fat, sugar or salt] after the ban,” he said. 

“This wasn’t true in any sense. They could only pretend it was true by creating a ridiculous counterfactual in which consumption rose sharply for no reason if there hadn’t been a ban.”

City A.M. understands the study’s model is based upon researchers testing what could have happened had no action been taken. It does not measure obesity reduction.

City A.M. has approached the universities involved in the study for comment.