Health campaigners Action on Sugar and Action on Salt are calling on government to make colour-coded nutrition labelling mandatory on café and restaurant items.

In the wake of yesterday’s news that the food industry has fallen short of sugar reduction targets, the groups have unveiled an updated seven-point plan that they say will  prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, raised blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and cancer in the UK.

“Currently supermarkets provide traffic light-coloured labelling on their products, making comparison between products easier than ever,” said Action on Sugar researcher and nutritionist Kawther Hashem. “However, when eating out, we cannot easily check and make those comparisons. It is time restaurants and cafés are forced to be as transparent.”

The campaigners added that colour-coded labelling, alongside percentage reference intakes, is one of the most effective ways to communicate nutrition information. They said labelling, which is currently voluntary, must now be made mandatory across all products sold in retail and on menus for food and drink available in restaurants, cafés and other out-of-home operators that have more than 20 outlets.

The seven action points in the plan are:

Reduce calorie intake by incremental reformulation:

  • To achieve a 50% reduction in sugar content across all products by 2030
  • To achieve a 20% reduction in energy density in unhealthy food and drink products (focused on saturated fat)

Reduce salt intake by incremental reformulation to below 6g/day (adults), and less for children

Escalate the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and introduce a confectionery levy

  • Sugar-sweetened drinks – the current threshold of 5g and 8g per 100ml should be slowly reduced and the amount of levy paid slowly escalated.
  • Confectionery – a similar levy should be introduced for confectionery, with the opportunity to reformulate based not on sugar content, but on energy density.

Ensure only healthy products (not high in fat, salt and sugar) are marketed, promoted and advertised.

Ensure all products sold and provided in the public sector, e.g. schools, hospitals, meet strict nutritional standards.

Make uniform colour-coded labelling on front of pack mandatory on all products sold in retail and out-of-home, with stricter criteria for sugar.

Ensure the food and drink industry increases fruit and vegetable content of products through reformulation, promotion and marketing.

“Theresa May launched her Prime Minister campaign in 2016 by saying that she wanted to tackle health inequalities – obesity being a major factor in this,” said Action on Sugar and Action on Salt chairman Professor Graham MacGregor.

“While some progress has been made, a much more robust and hard-hitting strategy is required to tackle the greatest threat to the health of our children. Theresa May could lead the world in tackling obesity and type 2 diabetes and must put the nation’s health first.”