Plans to cut excess calorie consumption unveiled

Major steps to cut people’s excessive calorie intake have been unveiled by Public Health England (PHE) today as part of the government’s strategy to cut childhood and adult obesity.

The package includes:

  • new evidence highlighting overweight or obese boys and girls consume up to 500 and 290 calories too many each day respectively
  • a challenge to the food industry to reduce calories in products consumed by families by 20% by 2024
  • the launch of the latest One You campaign, encouraging adults to consume 400 calories at breakfast, and 600 for lunch and dinner. This comes as adults consume 200–300 calories in excess each day.

Obesity affects us all, as it is a burden on the NHS and local authorities. The NHS spends around £6 billion a year treating obesity related conditions.

The government’s challenge to the food industry is set out in Calorie reduction: The scope and ambition for action, published today by PHE. As with the sugar reduction programme, the industry has three ways to reduce calories:

  • change the recipe of products
  • reduce portion size
  • encourage consumers to purchase lower calorie products.

Categories of food covered by the programme include pizzas, ready meals, ready-made sandwiches, meat products and savoury snacks.

If the 20% target is met within five years, more than 35,000 premature deaths could be prevented and around £9 billion in NHS healthcare and social care costs could be saved over a 25 year period.

Responding to the report, Calorie reduction: The scope and ambition for action, published today by PEE, Professor Russell Viner, Officer for Health promotion at the RCPCH, said:

'PHE is right to challenge the food industry to reduce calories in products; this is bold and necessary action. We strongly support the approach as a way of changing the environment to help reduce the number of unnecessary calories that many children consume every day.

A number of factors contribute to eating too many calories, in particular the creep in portion sizes we’ve seen over the last 40 years; our food portions, particularly pizzas and hamburgers, are simply much bigger than they were in our parent’s time. The availability of fast food at pocket money prices and the advertising of unhealthy food and drink to children add to the problem, as does the lack of nutritional labelling, particularly on out-of-home products. It is our environment that pushes children to consume too many calories, far more than it is individual choices by families.

For children and young people, it’s important that today’s measures are part of a wider package, including early education on the importance of a balanced diet, encouraging children and young people to exercise regularly and promote healthier food choices, preventing new fast food shops opening near schools and place a ban on junk food advertising before the 9pm watershed.'