The food industry is on collision course with the government over Andrew Lansley’s plans to tackle the obesity crisis, The Grocer can reveal.
Insiders negotiating on the next stage of the Responsibility Deal claimed this week that the health secretary was hell bent on introducing an ambitious target to slash the calories consumed in England by five billion a day or 100 per person.
Focusing on simple calorie reduction would not work, they warned, adding that it flew in the face of industry plans to encourage healthy eating by achieving energy-balanced diets.
“The question we’re asking is while this five billion figure may be headline grabbing, is there actually a coherent strategy to tackle obesity to accompany it?” said a source close to the government’s plans. “We also want to ensure any initiative like this recognises the efforts that many retailers and suppliers have already made to reduce the calories in their products.”
The government is due to release its obesity strategy in the next few weeks and expects food companies and retailers to sign up to a new set of pledges.
Last month, The Grocer revealed the industry had approached the government with a new strategy, based on supermarket and supplier plans, to boost the fruit and veg content of their products at the expense of fatty, high energy density ingredients.
The IGD-spearheaded strategy claimed low-calorie foods were a major turn-off for many customers and that people would be better off in some cases eating higher calorie portions that satisfied their appetites.
Meanwhile, sources have downplayed speculation ministers may bring in a Danish-style fat tax. Fears were raised when David Cameron told the BBC: “I think it is something that we should look at. I am worried about the costs to the Health Service, the fact that some people are going to have shorter lives than their parents.”
A senior source said: “We don’t think this is something the government intends to go ahead with.”