A government claim to have slashed the cost of healthy foods in thousands of supermarkets has been called into question after an investigation by The Grocer found limited evidence of prices being cut on the back of it.

The Department of Health was this week trumpeting a nationwide campaign to increase the availability of affordable healthier meals under its Change4Life programme.

The Supermeals initiative - fronted by celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott - would, it said, lead to money-off healthy ingredients at participating supermarkets, Asda, Aldi and The Co-op Group.

However, a closer look at the deals on offer suggests the campaign has had at best a mixed impact on prices, with many of the stores involved offering no reductions at all. And where prices were reduced, they appeared to mirror those of retailers not even involved in the campaign.

Of the 134 Asda SKUs flagged up via the retailer’s and the Change4Life website, more than half had not actually been reduced in price, while just 46 were rollbacks and 18 were on multibuy promotion.

Aldi admitted it had not reduced any prices, saying it already offered low prices on healthy foods. “We’re not actually reducing any prices as our Super 6 promotion offers such good value,” said a spokesman.

Asda defended its stance. “We are rolling back the price of hundreds of healthier food lines, many at 50p and £1,” maintained a spokeswoman, adding that it was the first time Change4Life had been used to lower prices for all customers.

A spokeswoman for The Co-operative Food, which has cut the price of nine products and is offering 50 mulitbuys, also insisted the campaign would allow families on a budget to “make healthier choices”.

“This is the first time we have teamed up with Change4Life to highlight specific deals on healthier products available for shoppers,” she said.

However, the revelations follow criticism from nutritionists over the ingredients in some of the recipes featured in the campaign.

One recipe was singled out for including a Co-op cheese sauce mix that reportedly contained addititives regularly used in processed foods to extend shelf life.

Rivals also claimed that the retailers involved were more motivated by the positive publicity Change4Life would generate than helping the nation improve its health. Cut-throat competition was the overriding factor behind many of the deals, they added.

“A cynical person might argue that retailers would be offering a raft of special offers with a healthy eating slant in January, ” said Kantar Retail analyst Bryan Roberts. “However, I think the heart of the campaign is in the right place and it’s a positive move.”