Industry leaders have slammed the Labour Party’s new plans to tackle the obesity crisis, claiming they would set back work to improve the nutritional values of UK food by years.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the party would legislate against “shocking” levels of sugar, salt and fat in products, many of which were aimed at children.

He plans to ditch the government’s Responsibility Deal approach if Labour comes to power and is to launch a consultation on how to tackle obesity, making clear he favours regulation rather than voluntary agreements.

“We need an alternative as the current approach is not working,” he said, singling out cereals, which were “predominantly aimed at children” as an example of where Labour would lay down fresh laws.

But a leading retail source said the Responsibility Deal had achieved progress towards healthier food far quicker than Labour’s hostile stance. “The regulatory approach recommended by Andy Burnham could set progress back years.”

The FDF also urged MPs against bowing to calls for regulation. “Through voluntary commitments, salt levels have reduced by 9% since 2006 and some manufacturers have introduced calorie caps, in particular for snacks and soft drinks,” said a spokeswoman.

Peter Bennett, a partner at food business law firm Roythornes, warned Burnham’s plans could become a “re-run of the pasty tax fiasco”.

“Legislation to control fat and sugar in food would mean identifying workable definitions of undesirable foodstuffs, which do not penalise other products that have enormous health benefits,” he said.