UK public health officials have called on food sellers and manufacturers to reduce calories in their products by 20% by 2024.
As part of the government’s strategy to cut childhood and adult obesity, major steps to reduce people’s excessive calorie intake have been unveiled by Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
PHE claimed that if the 20% target is met within five years, more than 35,000 premature deaths could be prevented and around £9 billion in NHS healthcare and social care costs could be saved over a 25 year period.
The government said the food industry has three ways to reduce calories: change the recipe of products, reduce portion sizes and encourage consumers to purchase lower calorie products.
Categories of food covered by the programme include pizzas, ready meals, ready-made sandwiches, meat products and savoury snacks.
The NHS spends around £6 billion a year treating obesity-related conditions. The government said that obesity-related health problems keep people out of work, stifling their earnings and wider economic productivity.
A new campaign called ‘one you’ has been launched today which encourages adults to consume 400 calories at breakfast, and 600 for lunch and dinner.
PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie: “The simple truth is on average we need to eat less. Children and adults routinely eat too many calories and it’s why so many are overweight or obese.
“Industry can help families by finding innovative ways to lower the calories in the food we all enjoy and promoting UK business leadership on the world stage in tackling obesity.
UK public health and social care minister Steve Brine said: “There can be no doubt that obesity is now one of our greatest challenges – one that is fuelling an epidemic of preventable illnesses like type 2 diabetes and cancer. These not only shorten lives but put unsustainable pressure on our health service.
“We have a responsibility to act, which is why we are supporting families to make the healthy choice. Our calorie reduction programme – the first of its kind from any country in the world – will continue to build on the progress of our world-leading childhood obesity plan, which has led to positive steps by industry.”
PHE chief nutritionist Alison Tedstone added: “It’s hard for people to make healthy food choices, whether for themselves or their families. That’s why we are challenging the food industry to take 20% of the calories out of everyday foods, building on their good work on salt and promising announcements on sugar.
“We are also working through our campaign and its partners, to give the public the information they need to help make those choices easier.
“The 20% reduction target is the result of analysis of the new calorie consumption data, experience of sugar and salt reduction programmes, and more than 20 meetings with the food industry and stakeholders.”
The next step in the programme involves engagement with the whole food industry such as retailers, manufacturers, major restaurant, café, takeaway, and delivery companies, and health and charity sectors, to develop category guidelines. These will be published in mid-2019.
The announcement follows guidelines released by PHE last year which challenges food manufacturers reduce the amount of sugar in their products by 20% by 2020.
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