Calories to be cut by major food and drink companies

Food labels with calorie measurements There are calls for better labelling on food to help people consume fewer calories

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Food and drink companies have promised to cut calories in their products to help tackle obesity in the UK.

The 17 firms, which include Coca-Cola, Subway and Tesco, have signed up to the government scheme.

The Department of Health says England has one of Europe's highest obesity rates and that consuming too many calories is the root of the problem.

Among ideas to help consumers will be resealable packaging on many chocolate bars, including Cadbury's Dairy Milk.

Under the new scheme, every chocolate bar made by Mars will have a cap of 250 calories, while the UK arm of Coca Cola says it will introduce a 30% reduction in some of its soft drinks by 2014.

Start Quote

It is a great step in the right direction and will help millions of us eat and drink fewer calories”

End Quote Andrew Lansley Health Secretary

And some supermarkets, such as Asda, will develop a new low-calorie brand.

The "calorie reduction pledge" is part of the Public Health Responsibility Deal, developed by the Department of Health.

More than three-quarters of the retail market has signed up, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said.

Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Kerry Foods, Kraft, Mars, Nestle, PepsiCo, Premier Foods, Unilever, Beefeater (Whitbread) and contract caterer Compass have also signed up.

Mr Lansley said: "We all have a role to play - from individuals to public, private and non-governmental organisations - if we are going to cut five billion calories from our national diet.

"This pledge is just the start of what must be a bigger, broader commitment from the food industry. But it is a great step in the right direction and will help millions of us eat and drink fewer calories."

But Labour says the scheme is not the change needed in the nation's diet, favouring instead better food labelling and shielding children from adverts for junk food should be the starting point.

Terry Jones from the Food Manufacturers Federation said companies were committed to making changes.

"This is fundamental - and very costly, actually - reformulation activity to take calories out of products.

"So products that you and I buy today many of them... by 2013/2014 some businesses are talking of taking 30% of the calories out of some of those products."

'Part of the problem'

However, food companies came in for criticism from the Children's Food Campaign.

Campaign spokesman Charlie Powell said: "The food industry wants to be part of the solution but altogether refuses to admit that it's a big part of the problem.

"And it's to the government's disgrace that the food industry is actually helping to set government health policy. I think we should look at what's happening on the alcohol network and actually the government have decided that the way to go is actually to mandate companies in terms of their pricing.

"While they grapple with voluntary approaches, we'll see these weasel word pledges continue."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    This is similar to minimum pricing for alcohol, rendered even more ludicrous since gluttons harm only themselves whilst binge drinkers harm others too.

    In both cases everyone is punished because of the selfishness of a few, and in both cases its only effect will be to push up prices. Maybe that's the real motive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    How are they going to reduce calories? by shrinking portion sizes or compromising flavour. I'm a big believer in keeping a relatively healthy diet and then I can treat myself. and when I do, I go for the real diet version. I see the good intentions,, but instead of trying to make treat foods ok, shouldn't we be focusing on changing core eating habits? Just a thought...

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    The whole world is far too obsessed with calorie intake and not with the content of the actual food, or how much energy people need. Many athletes eat upwards of 5000 calories a day - but it's fruit, vegetables, unprocessed food etc, and they burn the excess off again. Eating the same number of calories in Mars bars and the like would probably not have the same positive effect on performance. ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Fizzy drinks are the real enemy, not foodstuffs

    Sort out those fizzy drinks and we sort out the explosion in obesity, various child disorders and diabetes all at the same time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    I'm not fat. Why should my bar of chocolate be made even smaller and more expensive just because some clowns don't know when to stop eating?

    It is their responsibility to limit their calorie intake, not the Government's, not the food producers' and certainly not mine.


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