A government plea for people to eat less in a bid to battle the growing obesity crisis has been widely criticised by the public and the food industry.
Launching a new “ambition” to bring down England’s obesity levels by 2020 yesterday, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley stressed he was not in favour of regulating the food and drink industry.
However, the plea has been labelled “woefully inadequate” by Which? and was slammed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver as “patronising”.
Overall, Britons should be eating five billion fewer calories a day than at present, he added. The new obesity strategy says that, on average, adults are exceeding their recommended calorie intake by 10%. Lansley said government and business had a role to play, but people also needed to take responsibility for their own health.
He insisted that “more progress has been made more quickly” through the Responsibility Deal with food and drink manufacturers than would have been managed through legislation. And he said the government would continue to “look at the evidence” on measures such as a “fat tax” on fatty foods, something Prime Minister David Cameron has said he would consider.
More than 60% of adults in England and a third of 10 and 11-year-olds are obese. Mr Lansley said he would like to see school and work canteens carrying nutritional information about the calories in meals.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd described the strategy as “woefully inadequate”, adding: “Almost a quarter of the population is now obese, and the cost to the NHS and the wider economy is rapidly rising. The Government calls on people to cut down the calories they eat, but isn’t giving them the tools to do so.”
However, the move for a lighter touch on legislation was welcomed by the Food and Drink Federation.
Terry Jones, FDF director of communications, said: “We are pleased to see the Government taking a holistic approach to tackling the complex problem of obesity. The framework’s clear focus and defined roles for a wide range of players, including government, individuals, businesses and the health service at both a national and local level recognises that this is everybody’s business.
“Food manufacturers have a great track record of positive contributions to improving public health, including clear labelling and reformulation of products, to help consumers make healthy choices. Following the announcement today, we are committed to continuing to work in partnership with the Department of Health and others through the Public Health Responsibility Deal to play our part in supporting people to achieve an appropriate calorie intake and a healthy lifestyle.”