Sweet brands to introduce 250 calorie cap

The UK’s biggest food brands are to stop producing and selling confectionery items containing more than 250 calories in response to the Government’s voluntary anti-obesity drive as calls for ministers to curb unhealthy eating among children intensifies

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Food makers have pledged to cut the calories in single-serve products such as chocolate bars by 2016.

Companies including Nestle and Ferrero have agreed with the Food and Drink Federation to introduce a calorie cap that could see them alter the size of products that would be correspondingly reduced in price. The 250-calorie pledge would be completed by 2016 at the latest to allow for products to be reformulated or reduced.

The commitment is separate to the Government’s Responsibility Deal with the industry but has been developed in partnership with health chiefs.

In a statement the FDF says: “We are pleased to announced that following discussions with the secretary of state for health, FDF members have agreed to implement a 250kcal cap on individually wrapped single service confectionery items sold in retail with the aim to complete this work in 2015 or spring 2016 at the latest.”

It sees the country’s biggest snack makers join Mondelez and Mars who revealed their own voluntary 250-calorie caps on chocolate bars last month and in 2012 respectively. Companies including Coca-Cola, Subway and Tesco have also be slashing calories from products over the last two years to help tackle obesity in partnership with the Government.

The announcement comes ahead of calls from scientists and campaign groups to introduce a ‘sugar tax’ on food and drink containing high levels of sugar alongside tougher restrictions on marketing those products. A report from leading health scientists due out later today (26 June) is said to explain the measures and put forward restrictions on in-store marketing and sponsorship of sporting events from products containing high sugar levels. The recommendations will be considered by the Department of Health (DoH).

Public Health of England (PHE), an agency established by the DoH in 2013 to improve the nation’s health, is set to echo some of the findings when it publishes its own findings later today. Taxes on sugary foods, Government targets to reduce sugar and increased restrictions for promoting snacks will reportedly be recommended in order to dampen rising levels of sugar consumption. Despite the measures, PHE will reportedly back the progress made by the industry and is confident of achieving proposed targets.

Jeremy Hunt, the heath secretary, ruled out introducing a sugar tax on food and fizzy drinks last week and claimed it was not part of its strategy, which includes traffic light labelling in supermarkets and reducing the sale of sweets at supermarket tills.

Growing concerns about spiralling levels of obesity and diabetes are putting food advertisers in the media spotlight ahead of next year’s general election. Last week, Labour leader Ed Miliband vowed to cap the level of sugar in breakfast cereals.

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