Change4Life, a food industry-backed scheme drawn up to help in the fight against obesity, has been launched by the UK government.

The initiative, which was first announced during the summer, was formally unveiled today (11 November) with details of what food manufacturers and retailers will do to tackle the obesity problem.

Food companies, backed by the Advertising Association, have pledged to incorporate messages from the Change4Life campaign into their promotional activity.

The likes of Kraft and Unilever will, through the Advertising Association’s Business4Life coalition, weigh in with GBP200m (US$308.3m) worth of air time.

Manufacturers including Kellogg and PepsiCo and retailers like Tesco and Asda have all signed up to promote the Change4Life programme, as well as push their own healthy-eating initiatives.

UK Health Secretary Alan Johnson said the country needs to be more active and eat more healthily to halt what the Department of Health describes as “the rising tide of obesity”.

Johnson said: “Obesity is the biggest public health challenge the country faces. If we don’t take action now we will condemn our children to reduced life expectancy.”

According to the Department of Health, without action, by 2050 some 90% of today’s children will be overweight and at risk from serious disease. Experts have estimated that obesity could cost the NHS some GBP50bn by 2050.

Johnson said the UK government was looking to create a “lifestyle revolution” and welcomed the co-operation of the food industry.

“Ten million people visit their corner shops every day and 36 million shop at Asda and Tesco each week – the fact that grocers and supermarkets are on board means we can really influence what goes into our shopping trolleys,” Johnson said.

“It’s unprecedented for supermarkets to join the Government and pledge to cut prices on healthy food.”