A series of expert reports commissioned by medical journal The Lancet warned that almost half of adults in Britain could be classified as obese within the next 20 years. It proposed a list of actions including a 10% tax on high calorie food and drink as well as restrictions on junk food advertising.
Terry Jones, director of communications at The Food and Drink Federation said the report “fails to recognise the lengths to which the UK food and drink industry has gone to help improve the health of the nation, particularly in relation to rising obesity levels”.
He added: “We recognise the significant threat that obesity poses to society and have taken a proactive part in improving health. Food companies are well aware of the complex diet, lifestyle and health challenges facing society and understand the high expectations that policy makers, regulators and campaigners have of the entire food industry.”
The Government said the suggested “fat tax” was not on the agenda. Health Minister Anne Milton said: “We have no current plans to impose a ’fat tax’, but we are working with food companies to reduce fat, sugar and salt and ensure healthier options are available.”
The fast food industry is regularly under pressure when it comes to obesity. Earlier this summer a European Union (EU) funded report by the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASA) called on member states’ governments to do more to regulate marketing in the food industry and make health a priority. The report claimed that the intense competition in the food and drink sector was leading to large numbers of adverts and promotions targeting children, despite promises from industry leaders that marketing to children would decrease.
Fast food companies have made steps to offer healthier alternatives and joined forces with the Government to become more transparent in the nutritional information they provide.
McDonald’s was one of 170 brands to sign up to the Government’s “Responsibility Deal” to promote healthy living and pledged to add calorie information on menus. A number of brands have started to introduce more healthy alternatives onto menus.
In April Kentucky Fried Chicken launched Brazer, a healthier range, which included a salad, burger and wrap with less calories and saturated fat than regular menu options.