A powerful coalition of investors has urged the government against scrapping its anti-obesity strategy, amid growing speculation a u-turn could be announced within days.

With less than a week to go before new rules on HFSS promotions are due to begin rolling out in stores, both industry and health group sources have said they believe government intervention could be imminent.

A Treasury review is said to be looking at the impact of the proposals on the cost of living crisis. However, members of the Investor Coalition on UK Food Policy said the government must remain “firmly committed to its obesity strategy to protect economic prosperity”.

Led by Rathbone Greenbank Investments and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation, the coalition is supported by 20 investors with combined total assets of £6 trillion, as well as NGOs such as The Food Foundation, ShareAction, and The Health Foundation.

It pointed to estimates by Frontier Economics that the current annual cost of obesity in the UK is £58bn, considering the costs to the NHS and social care, lost productivity, workforce inactivity and welfare payments.

“Investors see any move to scale back on the UK government’s ambition in this area as coming with significant economic and social costs,” the coalition said in a statement.

“Using the cost of living crisis as a reason for rolling back the obesity strategy is misguided and short-term in nature as the inaction will ultimately hit the poorest in society hardest.

“While people have free choice in terms of their diets, they must exercise that choice within a world shaped by the food industry – and in many ways, the consumer environment is designed to encourage people to eat more and more unhealthy foods. From product placement in TV programmes, to the ‘two-for-one promotions’ on unhealthy treats, consumers don’t exercise personal responsibility in a neutral environment.

“This has resulted in high streets, school canteens and supermarket shelves becoming flooded with food high in fat, sugar, and salt.”

Sophie Lawrence, stewardship, and engagement lead at Rathbone Greenbank Investments, added: “For shareholders like Rathbone Greenbank Investments, who have been engaging on this issue for several years, obesity has become a systemic risk facing the areas in which we invest.

“The mounting economic costs of diet-related diseases also generate direct risks for companies which mainly impact the food sector and principally retailers, manufacturers and out-of-home foodservice providers.

“There is also a growing consumer expectation for food sector companies to operate responsibly and produce healthier options.”

However, many supplier sources are hoping this week will see the government backtrack, after it emerged Liz Truss’s new leadership team was reviewing the plans, which could also see other measures scrapped, including the proposed crackdown on junk food ads on TV and online and even possibly a repeal of the sugar tax.

 A source said: “We still think there is a window. We think they still have got time although it’s ridiculously close to the deadline and it should never have got this far.”