In this letter to public health minister Anna Soubry, we call on the government to ensure retailers and food manufacturers take greater responsibility for providing healthy food choices.
The UK is facing a public health crisis. Around one quarter of people are now obese and diet related illnesses, such as cancers, heart disease and strokes, are the major killers.
Which? research shows that nine out of 10 of us want to eat more healthily, but many people say they have difficulty putting this into practice.
As you know, the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal was set up to challenge the food industry to take a greater role in tackling this major problem. It relies on a series of voluntary pledges, an approach the previous health secretary said would bring about better results, and faster, than legislation.
But our new research finds that the Responsibility Deal’s voluntary approach is not delivering on its promises; for example three of the top 10 supermarkets, serving millions of people, have still not signed up to the calorie reduction pledge.
The existing pledges do not include enough clear targets for companies to aim for, and there are no pledges to tackle important areas such as saturated fat reduction, and responsible marketing and promotions.
We are at a watershed moment. You have come into this role at a time when you can make a real improvement to the nation’s health but urgent action is needed to meet this challenge.
The pace of change among food companies must be dramatically increased and to drive this, the government should set out a much more ambitious approach. Which? urges you to incentivise companies to go further and faster by naming and shaming companies that under-perform. Ultimately, you should be prepared to bring in legislation where voluntary action fails.
Which? looks forward to working with you to make this happen. Millions of consumers expect nothing less.
Richard Lloyd, Which? Executive Director