The row broke out this week after lobby group the Children’s Food Campaign issued a report called The Irresponsibility Deal.
This listed food companies, many in the food service sector, which had failed to make pledges on calories labelling, salt reduction, and trans fat removal.
Some had made sham pledges, it said, such as Typhoo Tea, which had “signed up to remove trans fats from its products, despite the fact that its only product - tea, does not contain any trans fats.”
But, a spokeswoman for Typhoo said that the pledge to reduce trans fats applied only to its QT instant brand, which does contain trans fats. She said: “People have just run with the story and there has been a lot of negative coverage about Typhoo on the back of it. We are not very happy”.
Typhoo, sold a range of beverages, including coffee and fruit teas, and was also committed to improving the health and activity levels of its workforce, she added.
Kawther Hashem, Children’s Food Campaign co-ordinator, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that she was unaware of Typhoo’s QT product or that it contained trans fats. “We just checked if it sold anything other than tea,” she said.
She added that full length Irresponsibility Deal report did not “accuse Typhoo of anything, it just questioned why it had signed up to the pledge.”
She added: “We are not impressed with the food industry, both in terms of out-of-home-eating and retail suppliers. We do not believe that voluntary pledges work. Legislation is the way to make changes.”
About 14 other companies, including Birds Eye, had failed to make any pledges at all under the Responsibility Deal, the Campaign report said.
Other companies, such as soft drink manufactures AG Barr, Britvic, Coca-Cola and Nichols, had pledged only to promote physical activity, rather than address sugar levels in their products.
Hashem said: “This initiative has failed to elicit the commitment needed by the food industry to improve the nation’s diet and health, and instead is being abused by some companies as a marketing opportunity.”
But, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) director of communications Terry Jones said that food manufacturers had a track record of playing their part to improve public health through reformulation and providing clear front-of-pack labelling.
The Responsibility Deal was moving the issue of public health on further and faster than regulation could have done, he said.
“With the Responsibility Deal not even six months old, it feels like the Children’s Food Campaign is more focused on regulating the food industry than it is on better health outcomes for children,” said Jones.
FDF members took their responsibilities seriously and were considering how they could play their part in a forthcoming government drive to reduce obesity levels, which will be announced later this Autumn, he added.