A call to arms
This week I received the answer to a parliamentary question about how many people under 21 had been diagnosed with diabetes in the last five years. The figures are simply extraordinary. They show that from 605 people diagnosed with type 2 or other diabetes in 2013, the number had risen in 2017 to 1,030 - a staggering 70 per cent jump.
The vast majority (probably 90% or higher) will be type 2, which makes it all the more important that campaigns like #FizzFreeFeb, which kicks off on Friday, take hold.
The aim - as you probably know by now - is to encourage families, teenagers and young children in particular to give up sugary, fizzy drinks for the month. This fantastic campaign was thought up last year by Southwark council and now it’s spreading across the country. The campaign views tackling excessive sugar consumptionas a critical ingredient in the war on obesity in this country.
Yet #FizzFreeFeb is not just about saving younger people from health problems. Critically, it is also about fighting back against corporations that profit from children’s high sugar consumption.
As I told The Guardian: “The heaps of sugar companies are putting in their fizzy drinks are as good as poisoning our kids. With scores of children suffering from tooth decay, obesity and even diabetes, we must do something to alert people to the danger of too much sugar."
I have already signed up Health Secretary Matt Hancock and his shadow, my colleague Jonathan Ashworth, and today I am delighted to announce that celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is going to help me front the national campaign encouraging people to go fizz free for the month.
Hugh, who like me has successfully lost weight by eradicating sugar from his diet, has been a long-time critic of the sugar industry and majored on the issue in his great BBC series from last year, Britain's Fat Fight. I couldn't be more pleased to have him on board.
It's not too late for you to join in. You can still sign up here to show your support.