The UK public health minister, Anne Milton, has launched a staunch defence of the Government’s “responsibility deals” with the food and drink industry.

Milton insisted that the series of voluntary agreements between the government and the industry will result in people eating more healthily and drinking less alcohol.

“We are looking to broaden and deepen its reach,” Milton told the British Business Embassy Retail, Food & Drink summit in London today (9 August).

“In the next few months we will announce signatories who are committed to increasing fruit and vegetable consumption,” she said. Meanwhile, alcohol producers are on-track to take 1bn-worth of units out of the UK drinks market by 2015, she said.

Her comments were intended as a rebuke to critics of the responsibility deals, which came into force 18 months ago in order to push food and drink producers and retailers into doing more to encourage healthy lifestyles.

Milton criticised a “cynical press” for “demonising” the agreements.

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And, in what appeared to be an attack on health groups who walked away from the negotiating table last year, because of perceived industry influence on policy, Milton added: “Some stand on the sidelines instead of playing on the pitch, claiming that easy regulatory solutions exist when they do not.”

In November last year, the UK Parliament’s health select committee raised concerns over the effectiveness of the responsibility deals.