UK –  The UK government has called for food business including manufacturers, supermarkets and high street fast-food outlets to reduce 20% of calories in popular foods by 2024.

Through its One You campaign, the plans, initiated by Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), aim to make people health-conscious through a calorie-awareness initiative.

PHE says that if the 20% target is met within 5 years, more than 35,000 premature deaths could be prevented and around £9 billion in NHS healthcare and social care costs could be saved over a 25 year period.

The plan forms part of the government’s strategy to regulate the amount of calories taken during breakfast, lunch or dinner in a bid to control childhood and adult obesity.

Public Health England says that high calorie intake of up to 500 calories has been reported in children and adults who have been associated with health problems ranging from overweight, obesity to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers as adults.

These problems not only affect the wellbeing of an individual but also affects the economy as it is a burden on the country’s National Health Service (NHS) which spends around US$7.44 billion a year treating obesity-related conditions, according to the UK government.

The government has challenged the food industry to help tackle this problem through various steps including changing recipes of products, reducing portion sizes and encouraging consumers to purchase lower calorie products.

Food categories that require lowering of calories include pizzas, ready meals, ready-made sandwiches, meat products and savoury snacks, loved in many children and adult diets.

According to PHE, the 20% reduction target is the result of analysis of the new calorie consumption data, experience of sugar and salt reduction programmes, and more than 20 meetings with the food industry and stakeholders.

“We have a responsibility to act, which is why we are supporting families to make the healthy choice.

Our calorie reduction programme – the first of its kind from any country in the world – will continue to build on the progress of our world-leading childhood obesity plan, which has led to positive steps by industry,” said Steve Brine MP, Public Health and Social Care Minister.

The UK government announced a sugar reduction levy for sugar-sweetened beverages that is set to commence implementation in April 2018.

He added that the campaign had received a boost from major high street brands which have partnered with PHE, signposting meals that meet the 400-600-600 tip while total daily calorie intake recommendations remain at 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men.

PHE advices consumers to consume 400 calories of their daily needs at breakfast and 600 calories each from lunch and supper.

According to PHE, the next step will be engaging the whole food industry including retailers, manufacturers, major restaurant, café, takeaway, and delivery companies, and health and charity sectors, to develop category guidelines, which will be published in 2019.

“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,” said Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE