New voluntary calorie guidelines to help industry tackle obesity
The UK government is encouraging the food industry to support the national effort against Covid-19 and obesity, with voluntary calorie reduction guidelines to make it easier for the nation to choose healthier options in everyday meals and foods.
Voluntary guidelines for industry are a key commitment of the government’s obesity strategy and have a renewed urgency following evidence that being overweight can increase the health risks from Covid-19. A recent Public Health England (PHE) report found that being severely overweight increases people’s risk of hospitalisation, Intensive Care Unit admission and death from Covid-19.
The Government said the food industry’s efforts are crucial to providing healthier food and drink choices for consumers, and calorie reduction forms part of this. It is recommended that the following calorie reductions be made voluntarily:
- 20% calorie reduction for most meal categories in the eating out of home, takeaway and delivery sector, alongside a maximum calorie guideline for all categories
- for children’s meal bundles, a 10% calorie reduction ambition has been set to reflect progress already made
- 10% calorie reduction ambition for retailers making ready meals, chips and garlic bread, alongside a maximum calorie guideline for all categories
- for crisps and savoury snacks, a 5% ambition
- combined guidelines for both sectors have been set for sandwiches (5% ambition) and pizza and pastry products (20% ambition)
New voluntary salt reduction goals have also been published to encourage businesses to further reduce salt levels in the foods that contribute most to salt intakes.
Consuming too much salt is a major cause of high blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Despite good progress in some categories, the Government said more needs to be done to help reduce salt intake from the current average of 8.4g per day towards the recommended 6g – a reduction of around a third of a teaspoon, which would help to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
A second progress report on salt reduction, which shows good progress in some categories, such as bread and breakfast cereals, has also been published.
Public Health minister Jo Churchill said: “The food industry can play their part, by making it as easy as possible for everyone to eat more healthily. These guidelines will help them take positive action.”
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for PHE, said: “This is about broadening choice for consumers, as well as making the healthier choice the easy choice. Progress to date on sugar and salt reduction has shown that this can happen without compromising on taste and quality.”
Industry’s progress against the programme’s ambitions will be monitored with reports on calorie and salt reduction expected in 2022. The government remains committed to further action if results are not seen.