Nestlé chief calls for obesity regulation

The chief executive of Nestlé has broken ranks among food manufacturers to call for more regulation to tackle obesity.

Writing in The Grocer, Dame Fiona Kendrick, chairman and CEO of Nestlé UK & Ireland, said that while the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan created “a watershed in public health policy for the food industry”, it was only the start of the conversation. She added that it was time to start exploring further the potential role of regulation in future health policy.

Kendrick stressed the need for a level playing field between supermarkets and their suppliers, and the foodservice market stressing that “the entire UK food and drink industry needs to act, including the out-of-home sector”.

Foodservice operators have faced criticism from retailers and manufacturers for failing to sign up to voluntary measures to tackle obesity. Kendrick repeated the oft-used argument that: “An unintended consequence of voluntarism is that companies that voluntarily invest to reformulate their products are disadvantaged compared to those that take time to act, or take only limited action.”

While new technologies could help tackle obesity, Kendrick said they require long-term investment and a purely voluntary approach acts as a disincentive to this.

The intervention of a major supplier such as Nestlé is particularly significant as, to-date, the manufacturing sector, led by the Food and Drink Federation, has largely pushed for voluntary measures to tackle obesity. Retailers, on the other hand, have come out in favour of regulation, particularly around reformulation targets.

Kendrick’s comments come hot on the heels of Nestlé’s announcement that it plans to reduce the sugar content of its confectionery brands by 10% by 2018.

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