CHILDHOOD obesity is one of the biggest challenges Scotland faces as we try to turn around our nation's poor health record.

According to a Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) report this year, 28% of children in Scotland are either overweight or obese.

Other figures have shown that more than two in ten children in primary one face the same risk.

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Politicians have long called for a greater emphasis on physical education at school, but there is now a belated focus on the sugar and fat content in what we eat and drink.

Of course it is important for each adult to think responsibly about the food they, and their children eat. However, the companies behind unhealthy foods must also face up to their own responsibilities, just as tobacco and alcohol companies have been forced to do. As such, the UK Government’s levy on sugary drink producers may be a limited measure to tackle the obesity crisis, but it should at least have the welcome effect of shifting the conversation onto the regulation of products.

However, while recent developments are welcome, all public bodies that provide services involving children must do their bit to ensure that nutrition is promoted.

In theory, North Lanarkshire council takes children’s health very seriously. The “healthy eating” part of its website states: “Your child's growth, development and educational needs are important to us. A healthy and nutritious diet helps to contribute to their overall growth and decreases the risk of obesity and other health problems.” So far, so good.

In practice, however, the same council allowed multinational dairy firm Muller to enter a primary school and carry out a consumer test of its strawberry and chocolate milkshakes.

The danger with such a practice is obvious: pupils as young as five could develop a taste for sugary drinks, rather than healthy alternatives which should be the focus.

The product test also raises the question of how many food and drink companies have been given access to pupils from councils across the country. Ministers, in conjunction with COSLA, need to review the guidance in this area and ensure that local authorities enable, rather than harm, healthy eating messages.