Consumer watchdog Which? claims that despite a raft of pledges made by food outlets, manufacturers and supermarkets on displaying calorie information, reducing salt in food and removing trans fats progress has been “inadequate”.
The Deal is a key tenet of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s public health strategy. Lansley believes that voluntary agreements with industry achieves more than statutory regulation.
Which?, however, has called for a “radical change of approach” to force more major brands to sign-up, citing Pizza Express, Costa and Birds Eye as notable absentees from pledges made to date.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says: “Our audit of progress made under the Government’s Responsibility Deal has shown the current approach is overly reliant on vague voluntary promises by the food industry
“This has so far failed to bring about change on anything like the scale that’s needed.”
The Food and Drinks Federation disputes the charge, claiming the voluntary approach has achieved “some considerable progress”.
The Department of Health, which claims the deal “has had a substantial impact on people’s lives”, says that 69% of the retail market have committed to removing trans fats, while more than 70% of the fast food and takeaway meals sold now carry calorie information.
It is thought that the role marketing plays in the promotion of unhealthy foods is expected to come under greater scrutiny in the second year of the Deal.
Discussions about the advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar and the use of price to promote foods are likely to be stepped up within the food and behaviour change networks setup by the government to develop pledges.