Caps on fat, salt and sugar promised by Labour

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Media captionLabour's Andy Burham on the party's plans for preventative health measures

Maximum limits would be set on levels of fat, salt and sugar in food marketed to children, under a Labour government, the shadow health secretary will say.

In a speech, Andy Burnham will say it is time for tough action to protect children and tackle obesity.

He will criticise the government's approach to industry, which has been categorised by voluntary agreements.

The Conservatives said "real progress" had been made on public health under the current government.

Mr Burnham is also expected to call for more to be done on food labelling and for plain cigarette packaging to be introduced.

But it is the move on setting mandatory maximum limits that will attract most attention.

The levels of fat, salt and sugar in food has been reduced in recent years, but many people still consume above the recommended levels.

There are signs that the rise in obesity among children has started levelling off, but 15% of under 15s are still obese.

On food labelling, Mr Burnham wants to see a clearer traffic light-based system. A front-of-pack colour coding and nutritional information system is currently being used.

It is not clear how this will be done, as introducing food labelling has proved difficult because of industry opposition and the need for mandatory rules to be agreed at an EU level.

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Meanwhile, the pledge of plain packaging comes after the government has carried out a consultation on the issue and said it is "minded" to introduce it, but has yet to confirm it will.

Targeted action on high-strength, cheap alcohol is also needed, Mr Burnham will say, with options on pricing and bottle size being explored.

"Labour has traditionally led the way on public health and this new approach will chart a new course towards a healthy nation in the 21st century.

"Children need better protection from the pressures of modern living and the harm caused by alcohol, sugar and smoke. and Labour will not flinch from taking the action needed to provide it."

Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said the steps proposed were in line with the organisation's "public health priorities".

"We need an honest discussion about whether we can still have a world-class health system without government intervening, where only it can, to improve and protect our health."

A Conservative spokesman said: "Labour are naive to think that just banning particular types of food will support people to make informed choices. The public deserve better."

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