Public Health England (PHE) have today (6 March 2018) announced measures to reduce the amount of calories people consume, as part of the government strategy to cut the levels of childhood and adult obesity in the UK.
With demand on the resources of the NHS being stretched seemingly to breaking point, it is no wonder that the government is ramping up its campaign to reduce levels of obesity which, according to PHE, accounts for £6 billion of spend in the NHS per year. Alongside this cost to society, obesity related conditions keep people out of work, stifle their earnings and affects wider economic productivity.
The measures announced include a challenge to the food industry to reduce calories in products consumed by families by 20% by 2024. The challenge has been set out in ‘Calorie reduction: the scope and ambition for action’ which follows the same pattern as seen in the sugar reduction programme asking for the following action to be taken:
- Changing the recipe of products
- Reducing portion size
- Encouraging consumers to purchase lower calorie products
This action by industry will be supported by a PHE campaign aimed at educating people to be more calorie-aware. Public Health England is looking to build on the success of the reduction in salt and the promised reductions in sugar levels in our foods already announced.
At present, this is a voluntary scheme and is badged as a ‘challenge’, rather than introducing additional legislation on high calorie food, which the government has chosen to do with the upcoming ‘sugar tax’ being imposed on high-sugar drinks. However, if the desired results are not achieved, this is a route that could be taken. Alternatively, as with the sugar tax, they could choose to do so with a particular category of high calorie food.
The next step in the strategy involves engagement with the whole food industry, including retailers, manufacturers, restaurants and delivery companies to develop category guidelines which will be published in mid-2019.
All businesses in the Food & Drink sector would be wise to begin the process of examining their products to see where changes could be made, as the reduction of levels of obesity in the population is something the government has to address, in one way or another.
How businesses adapt to address these changes, how they fund that innovation and what the overall (post tax/tax credit) impact on their business plans is, are key questions for us as advisers to consider, and we will be monitoring these developments.