From TheFamilyGP.com Featuring Dr Chris Steele MBE

Government failing to tackle obesity

Restaurant chains still failing to display calorie content of meals

The Government approach to tackling the obesity crisis by asking food companies to commit to healthier eating practices has been inadequate, a report has warned.

A year on from the launch of the Public Health Responsibility Deal, many major food companies have failed to provide information on the calorie content of their meals or reduce the levels of salt and trans fats in their foods, a report by Which? said.

So far, only two of the top ten restaurants and pub groups have agreed to provide calorie information. Others, such as Pizza Express, Ask, Café Rouge, Strada, Garfunkels, Beefeater and Prezzo, have failed to sign up to the voluntary deal.

Of the top five coffee shops, just Starbucks and Marks and Spencer have agreed to display the calorie content of foods, Which? says.

Costa Coffee, which has over a thousand outlets, has also failed to commit to displaying this information, as have its competitors Caffe Nero and Café Ritazza.

The report says that "good progress" has been made with companies reducing salt in foods. However, some of the big name brands like Iceland, Findus, Princes and Birds Eye have yet to agree to do this.

Around one in four adults in the UK are now obese, and diet-related health problems cost the NHS around £5 billion every year, the report said.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "We have the worst obesity rates in Europe and diet-related diseases, like heart disease and stroke, are blighting the public's health.

"Our audit of progress made under the Government's Responsibility Deal has shown the current approach is overly reliant on vague voluntary promises by the food industry. This has so far failed to bring about change on anything like the scale needed.

"The Government relies too much on voluntary deals with industry rather than showing real leadership. If food companies don’t agree to help people eat more healthily, then we must see legislation to force them to do so for the sake of the health of the nation."

The report called on the Government to demand that all food companies use traffic light nutrition labelling; establish new salt reduction targets; get companies to agree to reductions in sugar and fat content; ban all trans fats and bring in regulation to force companies to display the calorie content of foods if they do not voluntarily agree to do this by September 2012.

This article was published on Thu 15 March 2012