Food industry ‘ready for calorie-reduction challenge’

By Matt Atherton contact

- Last updated on GMT

The government focused on calorie reduction in the next phase of its childhood obesity plan
The government focused on calorie reduction in the next phase of its childhood obesity plan
The food and drink industry will rise to the challenge of helping to reduce children’s calorie intake, says the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), as the government launches the next stage of its childhood obesity plan.

The FDF welcomed the government’s voluntary plan to tackle children’s excess calorie consumption by children, which was revealed today (August 18). The government asked Public Health England (PHE) to make a calorie-reduction plan for foods children eat the most, including ready meals, pizzas and burgers.

An FDF spokeswoman said: “Our industry has a proud track record of reformulation to remove salt, fat and sugar from food and drinks. This work will continue as we rise to the challenge of PHE’s sugar reduction targets, and engage with this new focus on calories.

“We are pleased that the government has confirmed the broadening of its focus beyond just sugar –and towards calories – as it seeks to tackle obesity.Food and drink companies continue to play their part to help people who are concerned about their weight by making available new, healthier options, by providing on-pack nutrition information and by supporting physical activity initiatives.”

Calorie-reduction plan

PHE will investigate the link between excess calorie intake and obesity, and reveal its findings in early 2018. It will then consult with food manufacturers and health organisations on guidelines for the calorie-reduction plan, and timelines for targets.

PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said: “A third of children leave primary school overweight or obese and an excess of calories – not just excess sugar consumption – is the root cause of this.

“We will work with the food companies and retailers to tackle this as the next critical step in combating our childhood obesity problem.”

But, the next stage of the “world-leading”​ childhood obesity plan was criticised by heath campaigners for lacking conviction. The Children’s Food Campaign said the obesity problem couldn’t wait for more research, and that action was needed immediately.

The campaign’s co-ordinator Malcolm Clark said: “Beyond passing a sugary drinks tax into law, the government has so far provided thin gruel for parents and health professionals keen to see significant progress on tackling childhood obesity.

‘Remain to be convinced’

“We remain to be convinced that the calorie reduction programme announced today, welcome in principle but short on detail, will change this leadership deficit. It is time for the government to reclaim the brave and bold parts of the original childhood obesity strategy, which it discarded last summer before launch.​”

Similarly, pressure group Action on Sugar said the obesity plan needed to be more robust. Food manufacturers needed to start reducing calories in their food today, it added.

Action on Sugar campaign director Katharine Jenner said: “We are pleased that PHE are launching a programme to tackle excess calorie consumption, which we hope will be ambitious. But more children are becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes, and yet the food industry continues to pump out unhealthy, calorific food at cheap prices.

“Fast food chains, takeaways, manufacturers and supermarkets must not wait until next summer to start making their food healthier, they should start reducing calories today.”

Meanwhile, Food Manufacture​ revealed the government’s strategy to move away from sugar reduction and toward a total calorie approach​ this month. The Department of Health’s programme director Emma Reed said the obesity problem was “more than about sugar”​.

What they say about the childhood obesity plan’s move to calorie control

  • “We are pleased that the government has confirmed the broadening of its focus beyond just sugar – and towards calories – as it seeks to tackle obesity. FDF has long advocated this ‘whole diet’ approach.  Singling out the role of individual ingredients and food groups does not help consumers to make good choices about their diet, lifestyle or general health.”

Food and Drink Federation

  • “There is no easy solution to addressing our deep-rooted, poor diet in Scotland. And the need to reduce our calorie intake, in addition to reformulation of the high salt, sugar and fat food and drinks products is part of a package of measures which Food Standards Scotland has put forward to improve our diet-related health.”

Geoff Ogle, Food Standards Scotland

  • “We remain to be convinced that the calorie reduction programme announced today, welcome in principle but short on detail, will change this leadership deficit.”

Malcolm Clark, Children’s Food Campaign

  • “The greatest health threat to the UK is obesity and type 2 diabetes. Whilst everyone acknowledges this, one year ago Theresa May watered down David Cameron’s plan for entirely political reasons. We need a much more robust plan with enforcement of the sugar and calorie reduction targets.”

Graham MacGregor, Action on Sugar

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