Food producers told to reduce calories in popular foods by 20%

canned food on supermarket shelves Print publication


Public Health England (PHE) is an executive agency of the Department of Health and its remit is to address health inequalities and promote health and well-being. One priority for 2018 is to “support people to make healthy choices” and it has resolved to deliver a programme of work which significantly reduces childhood obesity. Although its role is to give guidance, some of its recommendations have become legislation such as the Soft Drinks Levy and therefore the threat of legislation to back up its demands is very real.

PHE’s challenge to the food industry is set out in Government’s publication “Calorie reduction: the scope and ambition for action.” As with the sugar reduction programme, PHE states that the food industry has three ways to reduce calories:

  • change the recipe of products
  • reduce portion size
  • 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. PHE states that if the target of a 20% calorie reduction within five years is met, more than 35,000 premature deaths could be prevented and £9 billion in healthcare costs could be saved over a 25 year period.

Duncan Selbie of PHE said “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 by tackling obesity.

WM comment

The focus on overall calories rather than individual nutrients has been welcomed by the Food and Drink Federation. The FDF has long since advocated an approach to tackling obesity which looks beyond individual nutrients and instead focuses primarily on calories.