Food manufacturers have promised to add more fruit and vegetables to ready meals, as part of the Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD) pledge.
The latest commitment is part of a plan to persuade consumers to eat more fruit and vegetables, in line with government advice to eat five portions a day.
Recent statistics reveal that two-thirds of Britons do not eat enough fruit and veg. That is despite evidence that five portions a day helps to cut the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease and certain types of cancers.
PHRD signatories will now boost the proportion of fruit and vegetables in prepared foods such as ready meals as well as frozen, canned and dried meals and fruit juices.
As part of the latest pledge, the fruit and vegetable sections of supermarkets will be expanded.
Dr Susan Jebb, chair of the Responsibility Deal Food Network , said: “Eating more fruit and vegetables is central to a healthy diet and I am delighted to see the tremendous efforts by the food industry to support this exciting initiative, enabling people to boost their consumption.”
Anna Soubry, public health minister, claimed that the PHRD had achieved “real progress” in helping Britons cut both calories and salt in their diet.
“All the major supermarkets are now committed to removing artificial trans fats and over 70% of fast food and takeaway meals sold on the high street have calories clearly labelled,” she said.
“The pledge is part of a wider government plan to encourage everyone to eat their five-a-day, which includes our £10M investment in the Change4Life campaign and the 2.1M children who receive a free piece of fruit or vegetable in school every day under our scheme.”
Mars, General Mills, Morrisons
PHRD signatories include: Mars, General Mills, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury, Tesco, Waitrose and the British Frozen Food Federation.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote to PHRD signatories today (November 16) to tell them the deal was working effectively on a voluntary basis. But more firms needed to sign up and new pledges should be considered, he said in a letter.
In September, food manufacturers urged the new health secretary Jeremy Hunt to broaden the PHRD – not to make its commitments deeper.
Melanie Leech, director general of the Food and Drink Federation, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We look forward to working with Jeremy Hunt, continuing our joint work on the Responsibility Deal, which has proved an effective mechanism for bringing stakeholders together and enabling businesses to play their part in improving public health.”
Meanwhile, a Department of Health spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the prospect of new salt reduction targets was currently under discussion by the Responsibility Deal Food Network high level steering group.
While no decision had yet been taken, he confirmed that “reformulation will be a part of the strategy for salt reduction beyond 2012”.