Legislation needed to wage a successful war against child obesity, says government adviser A public health expert working with the government to put together long-term strategies to tackle problems like obesity says she favours introducing laws to regulate school lunch boxes. Sian Griffith's comments come amid mounting concern about the rising numbers of children with life-threatening weight problems. The director of the School of Public Health at Chinese University said new strategies would be unveiled soon. Although she favoured such a law, the issue had not been raised during her exchanges with the Health Department. Last year, the Sunday Morning Post revealed officials were considering regulating lunch-box providers to supply healthier food to children. The idea of healthier lunches was raised again last week when legislators criticised the government for failing to tackle child obesity. The rate of child obesity in Hong Kong has risen from 16.4 to 18.7 per cent over the past seven years. Professor Griffiths said she was in favour of legislation and society would have to take the issue seriously. 'We have to consider it carefully and put it in the [Hong Kong] context,' she said, referring to the city's status as a free market and society. Governments around the world have been taking drastic measures in recent years to step up their fight against child obesity. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's attempt to highlight the unhealthy fare provided in British schools forced Prime Minister Tony Blair to launch a #280 million ($3.84 billion) campaign to improve food, while France has banned all vending machines in schools. Professor Griffiths said any new legislation would have to balance cost, choices and ingredients of meals. But she believed changing children's eating habits could not be achieved by legislation alone. 'It has to be done in a package - it should not only focus on lunchboxes, but education and promotion would have to be included as well,' she said. Lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, who represents the medical sector, said legislation would be difficult. 'How do you draft the law anyway?' he said. 'Do you write out the limit of how much sugar or non-saturated fat each lunch box has? How do you monitor if the providers are following the law? Do you check every single lunch box to make sure the nutritional level is right?' He said it would be better to legislate on putting a compulsory nutrition-level label on lunch boxes. 'This is at least a first step,' Dr Kwok said. He urged the Education and Manpower Bureau to take a bigger role in promoting healthy eating habits among children, instead of letting the Department of Health do most of the work. 'I don't see the bureau having any involvement in this, but this is education after all,' he said. 'The bureau should issue a guideline for schools. I notice school management only listen to the government when there is a guideline for them to follow.' Dr Kwok criticised the current promotion of healthy eating habits for failing to make an impact and said that as a parent, he realised they had little idea what their children were eating at school.