Retailers and suppliers this week called on the government for a timeout on the Responsibility Deal, just 12 months after the launch of the programme to tackle obesity and alcohol abuse.

They urged health secretary Andrew Lansley to develop a new system to provide evidence to support the Deal. The government was also told it needed to involve more companies as too many were currently snubbing the Deal.

The BRC said the Deal’s credibility had been damaged by the lack of an evidence base and added that last year’s promise of a review under its chief medical officer, professor Dame Sally Davies, had “come to nothing”.

It also attacked what it said was a “constant drip-feed of initiatives” by the DH and said there should be no new proposals for at least a year.

“We think this is the time to draw breath so the government can find ways in which it can provide evidence to support the effectiveness of the Responsibility Deal,” said BRC director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie.

“We need the government to come up with an evidence base that will show the effect of the Deal and we need to fill the gaps in terms of the companies that haven’t committed to the programme.”

The FDF also called on the government to broaden takeup before burdening existing partners with more initiatives.

This week, consumer group Which? launched an attack on the “ineffective” Deal. “Some progress has been made on companies committing to reduce salt, but many big-name brands have yet to pledge,” it said.

However, Lansley defended the Deal. “It has delivered far more action more quickly than before, and more than could have been done through regulation in that time,” he said.