Plans to cut excess calorie consumption unveiled


New plans to cut excessive calorie consumption in adults and children have been revealed by Public Health England.

Public Health England have today revealed their plans to reduce calorie consumption among children and adults by 20%. 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

The report has revealed that overweight and obese boys, depending on their age, consume between 140–500 calories too many each day, whilst girls are consuming 160–290 over their recommended allowance. The rise in obesity has seen devastating consequences, such as bullying and low self-esteem in childhood, and type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers as adults.

The study also points to a link between obese parents and children, with an obese parent being more likely to have an obese child, who in turn is more likely to grow up into an obese adult. This cycle of obesity is a burden on the NHS and local authorities, with obesity treatments now costing £6 billion a year. Obesity related illnesses also keep people out of work, stifling their own earnings and impacting negatively on the wider economy.

The government's challenge to the food industry, as noted in ‘Calorie reduction: The scope and ambition for action’, gives companies three ways to reduce calories, much like the sugar reduction initiative. These are as follows:

  • Change the recipe of products
  • Reduce portion size
  • Encourage consumers to purchase lower calorie products

The foods expected to be impacted by this include pizzas, ready meals, ready-made sandwiches, meat products and savoury snacks.

High street stores will also work with PHE on their latest 'One You' campaign, which aims to support people to be more calorie aware with its 400-600-600 tip. Although the daily calorie intake recommendations remain at 2000 for women and 2500 for men, it is advised to aim for a 400 calorie breakfast, 600 calorie lunch and 600 calorie dinner. Stores will work within these guidelines and signpost meals that fit the recommendation.

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of PHE, talked about the industry’s relationship with growing obesity rates: “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.”

The aim to reduce calorie consumption by 20% is based on the analysis of new data, plus prior experience with sugar and salt reduction programmes.

The chief nutritionist at PHE, Dr Alison Tedstone, said of this: “It’s hard for people to make healthy food choices, whether for themselves or their families. That’s why we are challenging the food industry to take 20% of the calories out of everyday foods, building on their good work on salt and promising announcements on sugar.”

If this 20% reduction is met in its proposed five year period it could see more than 35,000 premature deaths prevented, and a £9 billion saving for the NHS and social care over a 25 year period.

The next step in the programme involves engagement with the whole food industry – including major restaurants, cafés, takeaways, and delivery companies – and health and charity sectors, to further develop category guidelines. These are set to be published in mid-2019.