The government has ruled out imposing a ‘fat tax’ on food companies – despite a new study warning that almost half of British men will be obese by 2030.

Public health minister Anne Milton today said taxing food and drink companies was not the way to combat rising obesity, adding that it was down to a “collective voluntary effort” in which people took more responsibility for what they ate.

"We're too fat and we need to do something about it,” said Milton. “[But] we have no current plans to impose a 'fat tax'.”

The research, published in The Lancet, warned almost half of adult men could be obese by 2030, jumping from the current level of 26% to between 41% and 48%.

The proportion of obese women is predicted to rise from 26% to between 35% and 43%. The researchers behind the study called on Whitehall to use legislation and direct intervention to tackle the issue.

But Terry Jones of the Food & Drink Federation’s said: “The Lancet fails to recognise the lengths to which the UK food and drink industry has gone to help improve the health of the nation, particularly in relation to rising obesity levels.

“We were a founding signatory of the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal, demonstrating our commitment to a multi-stakeholder and coordinated approach to improving public health.

“We bring with us our track record of achievement in key areas such as the reformulation of products, the provision of clear consumer information and our drive to support our own workforce to make healthier choices.”

“We recognise the significant threat that obesity poses to society and have taken a proactive part in improving health.”

Milton added: “We are working with food companies to reduce fat, sugar and salt and ensure healthier options are available. We also want to see businesses use more consistent and informative front-of-pack nutrition labeling than has been achieved in the past.”

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