It is also likely to garner more support for health lobby groups, such as Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign, which has called for the government to introduce a 20p/litre tax on sugary drinks. Sustain also wants nutritional profiling of food and drink to be used as the basis for controls on promotions.
While much progress had been made by the food and drink sector in reformulating products to reduce levels of fat, sugar and salt as part of the PHRD, health lobbyists have argued that it isn’t enough and tougher regulation of the industry, including taxes, is now needed to stem rising levels of obesity and diet-related diseases.
Despite some retailers, such as Aldi, Lidl and Tesco, making commitments to remove sweet confectionery from their checkouts, campaigners want far tougher restrictions on in-store promotions, as well as online and TV advertising to children – including a 9.00pm ‘watershed’ on HFSS TV advertising.
“I am tremendously proud of what we have achieved,” said Susan Jebb, chair of the PHRD’s Food Network. “70% of high street fast food and takeaway meals have calories clearly labelled; 42 businesses have committed to reduce calories, including many of the leading manufacturers and retailers; and we are achieving good sign up to stretching new salt reduction targets.
“But we have been unable to agree a generic commitment on responsible promotions. I recognise this is a difficult area for companies as promotional activity goes to the heart of business competitiveness.”
She added: “I am personally very disappointed we have not made greater progress in this area and I recognise that we may need to look towards other policy options to achieve the shift in the promotional environment to support healthier food and drink choices.”
Which? food expert Sue Davies, echoed Jebb’s disappointment about lack of progress on HFSS promotions, especially to children.
“Our research has repeatedly found that people are frustrated with too many supermarket promotions on unhealthy foods,” said Davies. “This issue has to be more of a priority for government and the food industry.”
Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, added: “It shows the true limits of the Responsibility Deal.
“It’s about ensuring that the rules governing the marketing of HFSS products are across all forms of media and packaging and the nutritional profiling model are there to provide consistent rules.”
Graham MacGregor, chairman of Consensus Action on Salt & Health and Action on Sugar, called for responsibility for nutrition and health to be returned from the Department of Health to the Food Standards Agency to ensure further progress on reducing levels of fat, salt and sugar in food and drink.