UK's health secretary challenges snack makers 'to cut portion sizes'

By Lindsey Partos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Pressure continues on snack makers to reduce portion sizes as the UK's health secretary Alan Johnson challenges the industry to design healthy snacks in smaller portions.

The health secretary met with leading business figures this morning at the first board meeting of Business4Life (b4L), an industry consortium,including Nestle and Mars, that has partnered the UK government in its Change4Life campaign that aims to encourage healthy lifestyles to curb soaring obesity figures.

"If snack sizes were available it would help us to eat less,"​ he told participants at the b4L meeting adding, “we were raised to waste not want, so if we buy a big chocolate bar we’ll eat it all"​.

Mr. Johnson called on the industry "to cut portion sizes and promote healthy snacks to help consumers to lose weight,"​ a press officer at the Department of Health told BakeryandSnacks.com.

The food industry is an integral part of the solution to tackling obesity in the UK and the b4L sees a number of food makers, along with fitness firms, broadcasters and retailers, partnering the government's Change4Life campaign that launched last month to stem the rising tide of obesity.

The DoH estimates that a potential nine out of 10 children could be overweight or obese by 2050.

The Business4Life consortium, spearheaded by the UK's Advertising Association, confirmed the industry contribution will be worth in excess of £200 million (€227m) over four years, in addition to the government’s own £75 million (€83m) three year advertising and marketing campaign.

FDF confirms industry action on size

Responding to Johnson's call to cut portion sizes Julian Hunt, director of communications at the UK's Food and Drink Federation said: "It is a perfectly legitimate challenge to lay down to industry"​.

And one that the industry is already rising to: “I know that more is being done by our members, in terms of new pack formats, reducing the calorie content and developing new products that meet the demand for healthier alternatives,”​ he said in a statement sent to BakeryandSnacks.com.

Hunt added that eight out of 10 food and drink packs purchased are bought in a supermarket. "And in that supermarket, there is a choice of different pack sizes and formats on shelves from which people can choose the product that best suits the needs of their families,"​ he continued.

The Lancet attacks Change4Life on food industry involvement

Sister site FoodNavigator.com reported early last month that leading scientific journal The Lancet had attacked the Change4Life anti-obesity campaign on the grounds that it allows sponsorship from food companies whose products it says are contributing to obesity.

The Lancet criticised the advertisements as “simplistic”​, and said it “beggars belief that the government has decided to allow sponsorship by commercial companies in the order of £200m”​.

Speaking to FoodNavigator.com at the time, a spokesperson for the DoH said: "These companies are not sponsors - they are not giving us money. We are harnessing the power that they have with consumers to promote healthy living".

Related topics: Health, Markets

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