Sainsbury's boss Justin King has challenged government healthier eating initiatives such as Change4Life, dismissing voluntary schemes as "the refuge of scoundrels".

Giving evidence to The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee last week as part of its inquiry into behaviour change, CEO King said voluntary agreements had a role to play, but were often "lowest common denominator" and difficult to comply with.

"We're not a member of Change4Life and that feels inconsistent for us given the rest of our positioning, but the agreement required us to abandon everything we'd done on Active Kids, which was our key platform to engage children with activity," he said. "One could only claim new, different and incremental activity."

Sainsbury's wasn't prepared to "row backwards" on something it had done a lot of work on, he added. "It becomes burdensome because you have to force-fit what you're already doing into something which may not even last the test of time. Sometimes legislation is better. It is burdensome but it is consistent for everybody and tends to stand the test of time."

FDF communications director Julian Hunt agreed . "You can't change what you're doing every two years when the wind blows in a different direction," he said of voluntary schemes. "You need a long-term commitment from government because that gives everyone the chance to adapt."