Food manufacturers and restaurants have been called on to reduce the amount of calories in food products by a fifth over the next six years.
As part of a new Public Health England campaign to fight national obesity levels, the food industry has been challenged to cut calories in products consumed by families.
The national health body has sharpened its focus on the country’s food intake after new evidence revealed many young boys and girls consumed up to 500 and 290 excess calories respectively every day.
Meanwhile, the NHS spends around £6bn each year treating obesity-related conditions, while similar health problems could stifle economic productivity.
To bring calorie intake down and meet its target, the food industry was given three key strategies.
- Lower calorie recipes
- Reduced portion size
- Encouraging consumers to purchase lower calories products
Pizzas, ready meals and ready-made sandwiches are among the products targeted by the campaign.
If the food industry meets the 20 per cent target, the government claimed over 35,000 premature deaths could be prevented, with the NHS saving £9bn in health and social care costs over the a 25-year period.
Commenting on the food industry’s new target, Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said: “The simple truth is on average we need to eat less. Children and adults routinely eat too many calories and it’s why so many are overweight or obese.
“Industry can help families by finding innovative ways to lower the calories in the food we all enjoy and promoting UK business leadership on the world stage in tackling obesity.”
Public Health England said it based the 20 per cent reduction on analysis of new calorie consumption data and prior experience of sugar and salt reduction programmes.
The food industry and stakeholders had also been consulted, the body said, with over 20 meetings taking place.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “It’s hard for people to make healthy food choices, whether for themselves or their families. That’s why we are challenging the food industry to take 20 per cent of the calories out of everyday foods, building on their good work on salt and promising announcements on sugar.
“We are also working through our campaign and its partners, to give the public the information they need to help make those choices easier.”
Public Health England will also relaunch its One You campaign, which aims to promote healthier lifestyle choices among citizens with guidelines and meal information.
The second stage of the programme will see the government work with the wider food industry, including retailers, manufacturers, restaurants, cafes and takeaways, to develop new category guidelines by mid-2019.
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