Industry body UKHospitality has warned Public Health England not to “place undue pressure on businesses” after its calorie reduction plan was revealed.
Health officials want to see a 20% reduction in UK calorie consumption by 2024 and have challenged the food industry to reduce the calories in 13 food groups consumed by families [see list below] by a fifth, threatening to seek government legislation if action is not taken.
UKHospitality has said that manufacturers, distributors and caterers have already taken significant measures help combat the complex causes of obesity despite “punishing commercial conditions and unrelenting pressure on margins”.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said: “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.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the industry body, said: “The hospitality industry has a long track record of promoting healthy lifestyles though reformulating recipes; offering healthier options; and reducing sugar, salt, fat and calories in meal options. To help support businesses, last year we produced an Industry Nutrition Guide to help every chef and catering manager in the UK provide healthier choices for customers.
“In order to build on this progress, it is crucial that government initiatives do not place undue pressure on businesses, which may derail ongoing work to promote healthy lifestyles. In meetings, UKHospitality has repeatedly raised issues with Public Health England about its sugar programme – ‘Sugar reduction: achieving the 20%’ – and its data collection methodology, which precludes many businesses from engaging and demonstrating their good work. The new calorie reduction programme will, too, be a tough ask for many within the catering industry because, unlike retailers and manufacturers, menus and recipes come in all shapes and sizes.
“There is also a question surrounding cost for hospitality operators. Our members have consistently altered menu choices – at great expense – to reduce calories and provide healthier options. With severe pressure on hospitality businesses across the board, demonstrated by recent restaurant closures, now is not the time to put further stress on operators to meet targets.”
UKHospitality has called on the government and Public Health England to complement the work done by the hospitality industry through a stronger emphasis on nutrition and physical exercise in schools and better education around food for both children and adults.
The industry body has said it will continue to liaise with Public Health England and the Department of Health to reduce obesity in both children and adults, which costs the NHS £6bn a year.
The 13 food groups Public Health England is seeking a 20% calorie reduction in are:
- savoury biscuits and crackers
- speciality breads, such as ciabatta with olives
- cooking sauces and dressings
- crisps and savoury snacks
- egg products
- potato products
- meat products, such as pies, pastries, sausages and burgers
- pasta, rice and noodles
- ready meals and takeaways
- food-to-go, such as sandwiches