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Calorie challenge to tackle obesity

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

6th March 2018 – Food manufacturers are being set targets to cut calories in some of the most popular family foods.

The measures are designed to help reduce energy intake and stem adult and childhood obesity.

Public Health England (PHE) says it wants to see 20% calorie cuts in certain products by 2024.

Pizzas, ready meals and snacks

It has been under pressure to tackle obesity since the launch of the government's Childhood Obesity Plan in 2016. Last August, PHE announced it could set targets for food manufacturers and retailers to cut calories in some of the most popular children's foods.

Campaigners say they are still waiting to see strict limits imposed on advertising junk food to kids.

Childhood obesity

According to PHE, boys who are overweight or obese consume between 140 and 500 calories too many each day. For girls, the excess is between 160 and 290 calories.

Health experts say the resulting extra weight is leaving children at risk of being bullied and enduring low self-esteem. Later in life, they could be more at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

Also, an obese parent is more likely to have an obese child, they say.

A challenge to the food industry

The PHE guidelines, set out in 'Calorie reduction: The scope and ambition for action', is aimed at saving 35,000 premature deaths and around £9 billion in NHS healthcare and social care costs over a 25-year period.

The programme "challenges" manufacturers to cut calories in products that contribute significantly to children's intake of calories. It says this can be done by reformulating the food, as well as cutting portion sizes. And consumers should be encouraged to choose lower calorie alternatives.

The products covered by the programme include

  • Ready meals
  • Pizzas
  • Meat products
  • Savoury snacks
  • Sauces and dressings
  • Shop bought sandwiches
  • Prepared salads

It does not cover foods included in the ongoing strategy to reduce sugar levels.

Britons 'need to eat less'

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, says in a statement: "The simple truth is on average we need to eat less. Children and adults routinely eat too many calories and it’s why so many are overweight or obese.

"Industry can help families by finding innovative ways to lower the calories in the food we all enjoy, and promoting UK business leadership on the world stage in tackling obesity."

In 2016, PHE launched its One You campaign which aimed to encourage people make lifestyle changes to help them live longer.

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