By Maximilian Clarke

“We have to halt and then reverse the tide of obesity in this country,” said the UK’s Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, on the publication of the latest report into the health crisis, ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A call to action on obesity in England

Government has a role to play, he said, before imploring businesses and retailers to do their bit.

“Reducing the number of calories we consume is essential. It can happen if business continues action to reduce calories in everyday foods and drinks, and if all of us who are overweight take simple steps to reduce our calorie intake.”

But the British Retail Consortium has responded to the report and to Lansley’s comments., arguing that obesity is a complex problem and cannot be addressed by merely reducing calorie levels; and that the retail sector has, for a long time, been implementing measures to safeguard the health of consumers.

“Working with customers to make healthier lifestyles possible is something retailers are already doing and they remain committed to playing their part in tackling obesity,” said the Consortium’s Director of Food Policy

"There is an obesity problem and the Government is right to look for solutions. Retailers have long recognised they have a part to play. They've been contributing to calorie reduction for years by changing recipes and portion sizes alongside promoting fresh fruit and vegetables and improving nutritional labeling.

"Earlier this year, the UK's seven largest food retailers in the UK, all members of the British Retail Consortium, committed themselves to every relevant pledge on food and alcohol in the Government's Public Health Responsibility Deal.

"But understanding consumer behaviour is key to tackling obesity. Reducing the calories in a product doesn't work if people just eat something extra as well. We are doing a lot to help, but individuals have to take responsibility for the choices they make and there must be recognition of the role of exercise and education."

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