Food and drinks companies have been warned time is running out before they will be hit with legislation to enforce lower levels of salt, sugar and fat.

The government said this week it would turn to regulation unless there was a much broader take up of the voluntary Responsibility Deal measures in a “relatively short space of time”.

DH insiders also said the coalition was looking at ways to “name and shame” companies that have failed to sign up.

This week, companies including GSK and AG Barr pledged to reduce the amount of sugar and calories in their products by up to 10%, making a total of 31 companies signed up to calorie reduction measures. But health minister Anna Soubry told an FDF event that the moves did not go far enough and that the government was losing patience due to the slow take up.

A DH spokesman told The Grocer it was looking at ways to put pressure on companies not signed up, including “naming and shaming” those seen to be hindering progress to journalists and MPs.

Documents published by the DH this week revealed the government has sent a renewed call to companies asking them to sign up to the recent fruit and vegetables pledge, which attracted just 17 signatories at launch in November.

They also reveal 11 major high street caterers, with 200 or more outlets, have failed to sign up to the salt reduction pledge, accounting for 13% of the market, with at least four showing a “strong resistance.”

Dr Susan Jebb, chair of the Responsibility Deal food network, said there was “a lot of frustration” at the lack of uptake. “The problem is across the board,” she added.

Soubry said that unless sign-up was broadened soon, the government would consider regulation, in the face of growing calls from the health lobby and the Labour party. “I want to be able to go to my Prime Minister and my secretary of state and say this very important industry is delivering and here is the tangible evidence,” she warned.