Health secretary Andrew Lansley has launched a stinging attack on leading supermarket companies, accusing them of failing to take the Government¹s Responsibility Deal seriously enough.

The Department of Health told The Grocer there was "increasing frustration from ministers" that major retailers had failed to take sufficient voluntary action on the back of its strategy to tackle obesity and alcohol abuse.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has written to Tesco, Sainsbury's, M&S, Morrisons, The Co-operative Group, Waitrose and Aldi, calling on them "to do more" to back the deal, which was launched in March.

The one exception was Asda, which shortly after the strategy was announced revealed it was removing front of store alcohol displays in its stores.

A spokeswoman at the DH said: "Now, two months later, there is increasing frustration from ministers that other supermarkets aren't getting on board with similar pledges."

"I'd imagine Asda not all that happy about being the lone commercial ranger either. "

She said Lansley would also be writing to Asda "thanking them for their efforts."

The British Retail Consortium said it was perplexed by the Government¹s attack.

A spokesman said: "This is a surprise. All the major retailers are actively pursuing the pledges they agreed with the Government in the Public Health Responsibility Deal. They deserve credit for providing customers with unit labelling, preventing underage sales of alcohol and funding the Drinkaware campaign exactly as they said they would."

A spokesman for Asda said: "In April we made a decision that we would take the lead because we thought it was the right thing to do. For us it was the next step in a package of measures we began a couple of years ago when we began looking at one of two issues around the way alcohol was sold and displayed. 

"We will stay close to the Government on this issue." 

Read more
Saturday Essay: Why the Responsibility Deal is a no-brainer (26 March 2011)
Responsibility Deal slammed by experts as ‘oversimplistic’ (21 March 2011)