Calorie limits could be imposed on a range of food products sold in UK supermarkets and restaurants under government plans to tackle obesity.
As part of draft proposals revealed by The Telegraph, Public Health England (PHE) is considering calorie limits on products such as ready meals, pizzas and sandwiches.
The calorie limits reportedly proposed by the health body include 416 calories for chips in restaurants, 544 calories for ready meals and 550 calories for sandwiches and main meal salads.
Dr Alison Tedstone, PHE chief nutritionist, told The Telegraph: “Children and adults routinely eat too many calories and severe obesity in 10 to 11 year olds has reached an all-time high. These are early days in the calorie reduction programme but the food industry has a responsibility to act.”
Current guidelines in the UK suggest men should eat 2,500 calories per day, while women should consume 2,000.
The plans have been welcomed by obesity campaigners, while critics have said the proposals are too restrictive on food manufacturers.
Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The calorie caps are arbitrary, unscientific and unrealistic. It is reasonable to offer advice on daily calorie consumption but setting limits on individual meals is insane.”
Bill Wirtz, policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, said: “The intentions of PHE are understandable, but rectifying the bad nutritional habits and lack of exercise of some with outright bans for others is just blatantly unfair.”
He added: “Nobody is denying that we could all lose weight by only living on water and crispbread, but being a free society means being able to enjoy a pizza, a burger or an ice cream when you like. Educating rather than banning should be our aim.
“Ultimately it’s the government that needs to make the decisions regarding these proposed bans on food items. Even a simple execution of PHE’s recommendations would be [a] clear message that this government does not believe in informed and responsible consumers.”
Last year, UK public health officials called on food sellers and manufacturers to reduce calories in their products by 20% by 2024.
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.
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