Foodservice hit hard by calorie targets

Long-awaited calorie and salt reduction targets have been published by Public Health England (PHE) just months before the agency is due to be wound down.

Foodservice businesses will have to achieve double the calorie reductions of supermarkets with a 20% target set for most meal categories in the eating out of home, takeaway and delivery sector.

Retailers, by contrast, have been set a 10% calorie reduction ambition for ready meals, chips and garlic bread and 5% for crisps and savoury snacks. This represents a halving of the target for most supermarket ranges from an original proposal of 20% by 2024. PHE said feedback suggested the original target was unrealistic.

Foods consumed outside of the home often have a calorie content higher than those sold in retail, according to PHE. It cited research showing that a pizza for one sold at shops or supermarkets can have as many as 1,368 calories, which rises to 2,320 calories when purchased from a restaurant or takeaway.

PHE has also set a maximum calorie guideline for all categories as well as combined foodservice and retail targets for sandwiches (5%) and pizza and pastry products (20%).

New salt reduction goals have also been published to encourage businesses to further reduce levels in the foods that contribute most to salt intakes.

The 2024 targets are the fifth set of voluntary salt reduction targets for individual categories of food. In a progress report on the latest round of salt reduction, PHE said that for the out of home sector, 74% of products met the maximum targets.

Industry progress against the programme’s ambitions will be monitored with reports on calorie and salt reduction expected in 2022. Although the targets are voluntary, PHE said the government remains committed to further action if results are not seen.

PHE is due to be axed in March next year. It is not yet known who will oversee the new calorie and salt programmes along with ongoing work on sugar reduction.

In related news, a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has concluded that government progress towards reducing childhood obesity has been slow with many previous commitments not yet in place. The NAO added: “The government will need to act with greater urgency, commitment, co-ordination and cohesion if it is to address this severe risk to health and value for money.”

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