The UK Department of Health has dismissed a call by the UK's leading opposition party for legal limits on salt, sugar and fat in foods aimed at children.

A Department of Health spokesperson said today (7 January) that the government's voluntary approach, led by its responsibility deal with the food industry, is already helping to cut fat, salt and sugar in foods.

"There is now less salt in the food we buy, companies are cutting and capping calories and artificial trans fats are being widely taken out of food," he said.

However, Labour party shadow health minister, Andy Burnham, said over the weekend that his party will publish a policy review that considers the idea of setting maximum permitted levels of fat, salt and sugar in food marketed at children.

Burnham said ministers should take a tougher line with the food industry, amid new figures from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that show 26.6% of UK girls and 22.7% of boys are considered overweight or obese.

"The Government has failed to come up with a convincing plan to tackle this challenge," Burnham said. Government figures show that obesity costs the National Health Service GBP5bn per year.

The Department of Health spokepesperson said: "We are working to reduce the amount of salt in food further, cut saturated fat consumption, and we are exploring how to promote healthier food choices more widely. We also want more businesses making pledges so we get bigger results."

A spokesperson for trade body the Food & Drink Federation added: "Salt levels have reduced 9% since 2006 and some manufacturers have introduced calorie caps in particular for snacks and soft drinks."