PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie told the food industry that, from next year, the organisation would highlight where progress had stalled on sugar reduction, which might result in further Government action.
Speaking at Food Matters Live on 20 November, Selbie called on the food industry, especially the out-of-home sector, to accelerate their efforts in curbing obesity.
“Obesity is the pandemic of modern times,” he added. “Customers are saying they want faster progress from the food industry and, in particular, those businesses that have taken little or no action. We will be publicly reporting on these during 2019.”
His comments came as PHE revealed the results of a consumer survey showing the public’s overwhelming support for reducing sugar and calories in everyday foods.
The poll explored public perceptions of obesity and PHE’s reduction programmes that have challenged the food industry to reduce sugar and calories by 20% in everyday foods, such as breakfast cereals, yogurts, pizzas and ready meals.
Key findings from the survey included obesity being the third-biggest health concern (39% of respondents) for the UK – behind cancer (47%) and mental health (43%). A total of 80% of respondents said the responsibility for tackling obesity lay with food and drink manufacturers.
‘People want healthier food’
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “Severe obesity in 10- to 11-year-olds is at an all-time high. Plans to improve the nation’s diet are often described as ‘nanny state’ interference, but it’s clear people want healthier food and they expect the industry to play their full part in this.”
The survey also found people expected the Government to tackle obesity, with 60% believing it could do more. However, the survey was undertaken before the Government published chapter 2 of its Childhood Obesity Plan.
Next year, PHE will publish further progress towards reaching the 20% sugar reduction ambition by 2020, as well as guidelines for industry to achieve the 20% reduction in calories by 2024.