The Responsibility Deal is a disaster for public health, a spokesperson for Action on Sugar (AOS) has claimed.

Commenting on reports that shadow health minister Luciana Berger believes the Deal “isn’t working”, as reported by British Baker’s sister-title The Grocer, Professor Simon Capewell, part of campaign group AOS , said they would welcome Labour’s rumoured intention to scrap it.

Capewell said: “The Responsibility Deal has been a disaster for public health. It has used up a lot of time and effort, with almost no public benefits to show. And it has encouraged grandstanding. Some of the most vociferous participants are notable by failing to actually ‘walk the talk’, and are still not adopting traffic light labelling to better inform their customers.” 

He added that the Deal “sweetens the food industry, but is a disaster for working families”, as it allows businesses the opportunity to assert they are doing something useful.

Capewell said that he would see the Deal replaced by the taxation of products containing high levels of sugar, something Berger has stated a Labour government would not impose.

He argued that the party would be reluctant to impose a tax because of a feared public backlash. “They lack the courage of their convictions. They want to improve public health, but they fear any reaction less than 100% loud praise.”

In January, AOS chairman Professor Graham MacGregor told British Baker that the industry would be threatened with regulation and taxation should bakers not voluntarily lower sugar levels.

Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science at the Food and Drink Federation, said the announcement that Labour would not impose a tax would resonate with consumers experiencing high food bills.

“There have been a lot of signals around how unpopular it would be to increase the prices of food at a time when the food basket is taking up a high proportion of household income,” Gallani said. “This seems to be a response to consumers’ view on this matter.”