Manufacturers set to face targets on calories

Manufacturers set to face targets on calories

Calories in foods like burgers, pizza and ready meals are to be targeted in the UK government's next push to tackle childhood obesity in England.

A year on from the UK's setting of voluntary targets to cut the levels of sugar in certain foods on sale in England, the Government will look at similar measures to reduce the "excess calories from the foods children consume the most", the Public Health England agency said.

"Reducing calorie consumption from sources other than sugar is critical to reversing the worrying obesity trend," Public Health England announced.

It pointed to data it said shows one in three children are either overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school. Public Health England also said "more children in the UK than previously are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, some as young as seven".

The agency said it planned to "consider the evidence" on excess calorie consumption, which it would publish "in early 2018". Public Health England then plans to launch talks with the industry and NGOs to "develop guidance and timelines" for the programme to lower calories.

UK campaign group Action on Sugar said it was "pleased" the Government was looking to tackle excess calories but demanded more action.

"More children are becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes, and yet the food industry continues to pump out unhealthy, calorific food at cheap prices. Fast-food chains, takeaways, manufacturers and supermarkets must not wait until next summer to start making their food healthier, they should start reducing calories today," Action on Sugar campaign director Katharine Jenner said.
 
"PHE, who will be responsible for this work, must be fully resourced, and there must be strict enforcement and independent monitoring to ensure the food industry isn't let off the hook."

A spokesperson for UK industry body The Food and Drink Federation said: "We are pleased that the Government has confirmed the broadening of its focus beyond just sugar - and towards calories - as it seeks to tackle obesity. FDF has long advocated this whole-diet approach. Singling out the role of individual ingredients and food groups does not help consumers to make good choices about their diet, lifestyle or general health."

Why England child obesity plan is best industry could have hoped for - just-food analysis from August 2016