A raft of fresh commitments were on the verge of being agreed this week, but Lansley dropped his support at the eleventh hour. His change of heart followed a new report by the House of Lords claiming the policy of "nudging" the public towards healthier lifestyles was failing.
However, a virtually identical deal was unveiled this week, between retailers and the Scottish government, which has made it a central plank of its anti-obesity strategy. Retailers have been left seething that similar attempts have been snubbed in England.
Increase the proportion of fruit and vegetable ingredients in own-brand products
Keep fresh and frozen fruit and veg affordable, through special offers and value ranges
Provide more in-store information to customers to help them understand the benefits from frozen fruit and vegetable products
Fruit and veg will be located where people will be encouraged to make impulse purchases
A commitment to supply ranges of pre-prepared and ready-to-cook vegetables
The Scottish agreement includes retailer pledges to increase fruit and vegetable ingredients in own-brand products, ramp up healthy eating information and make fruit and vegetables more prominent in stores.
Retailers have also agreed to keep fruit and veg products "affordable" by committing to special offers and value ranges. Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, The Co-op, Boots, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and Waitrose were poised to sign a similar deal in England.
An insider said: "We have been working on these pledges for months. They are a major commitment aimed at improving the healthy eating of our customers and right up until this week the expectation was that the Department of Health was going to sign up to it. The decision to pull out came very much at the last minute."
The move may have been torpedoed by a report from the House of Lords last week. It claimed that the government was failing to base its policies on scientific evidence, citing its decision to impose a minimum alcohol price that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence claimed was too low to have a significant impact on consumption.
It also called for a traffic-light system of nutritional labelling to be imposed on all food packaging.
Yet the move proved a winner north of the border, with sport minister Shona Robison declaring: "This commitment from Scotland's retailers can help improve diet and tackle unhealthy weight."
A DH spokesman said it still planned to launch a pledge on fruit and vegetables and denied rejecting retailers. "We have been clear we will nudge when helpful, support when appropriate and regulate where necessary," she added.