A call by medics to introduce a 20% fat tax on unhealthy food has been met with criticism from the food industry and lambasted as “irresponsible”.

It follows the publication of two articles highlighting a need for such a tax in the British Medical Journal.

Academics led by Dr Oliver Mytton and Dr Mike Rayner of the Department of Public Health at Oxford University examined the evidence from around the world for what they call health-related food taxes. Denmark has brought in a ‘fat tax’, Hungary a ‘junk food tax’ and France a tax on all sweetened drinks.

However, Terry Jones, director of communications at the Food & Drink Federation (FDF), said: “When the whole of the food industry is focused on continuing to give hard-pressed families great-tasting food at an affordable price, discussion of adding 20% to food prices seems fanciful if not irresponsible.

“Under the Public Health Responsibility Deal, we will continue to work with the government and other stakeholders to make meaningful improvements in public health through pledges in areas such as salt and calorie reduction, and our commitment to improving the health of our employees.”

Last year, UK Prime Minister David Cameron intimated he would like the UK to follow other countries that have introduced similar measures.