Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King has hit out at the way private or public foodservice outlets are not subject to the same tough rules governing grocery retailers.
Giving the Society of Food Hygiene and Technology (SOFHT) annual lecture in London last month, King said: "While the food retail and manufacturing sectors were in the spotlight and being branded as the 'bad guys' in relation to [the incident involving illegal dye] Sudan 1, foodservice was largely ignored."
Manufacturers and retailers were pioneers on front-of-pack labelling, raising consumer awareness and tackling obesity, he added. But, he continued, "with one or two notable exceptions, the foodservice sector is taking little action to provide product information to consumers"
For example, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) was "trying to move the industry too far with its proposed new salt reduction targets", he said. But the foodservice sector was under less pressure to reformulate products to make them healthier. However, he accepted that the FSA was starting to target foodservice on salt.
"There needs to be recognition that while consumers have access to meals outside home that are high in salt, they will not adapt their palates and the overall salt consumption of the population will remain high," said King.
"If M&S (Marks and Spencer) happens to have a Simply Food next to a Prêt A Manger and M&S has taken all the salt out of its sandwiches and Pret hasn't, what's the consumer likely to do if they are still very attracted to the taste of salt?"
However, the day after King's lecture, the FSA announced that six high street restaurant chains - Burger King, KFC, McDonald's, Nando's, Subway and Wimpy - had agreed new healthy eating commitments. The changes support FSA activity to help people eat more healthily outside the home.
Commitments include working with suppliers to reduce salt and saturated fat levels in best-selling products; swapping sauces, dressings and frying oils for alternatives that are lower in saturated fat; increasing the number of healthier options on menus; and making nutritional information more accessible to customers.