A new Which? report has found that, while there are some examples of good practice, the government, retailers and food manufacturers could do much more to make healthy eating easier.
Which? research shows that nine out of 10 people want to eat more healthily, but many people say they have difficulty putting this into practice. Inconsistent labelling and the cost of healthy choices are among the factors that make it easier to opt for less healthy foods.
The government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal encourages companies to sign voluntary pledges to take action to improve the public’s health. Launched in 2011, the government stated that the Responsibility Deal would deliver faster and better results than regulation.
Responsibility Deal limitations
A Which? assessment in March 2012 concluded that the Responsibility Deal was too limited and issued a call for urgent action by the government and the food industry.
Our Taste for Change report [PDF: 1MB] measures how far the leading companies have come to deliver positive changes for consumers.
We assessed 20 leading food manufacturers and retailers on a variety of areas, including:
- improvements made to salt levels in foods
- action to lower saturated fat, sugar and calorie content
- clear, prominent nutrition labelling
- responsible marketing practices to children.
We found that although some examples of good practice do exist, on the whole consumers are being let down by an inconsistent approach.
The Co-operative leads the way
Our assessment shows The Co-operative leads the way, demonstrating a high level of commitment to change. By contrast, Iceland has taken a much more limited approach, failing to commit to salt targets and work on calorie reduction. It is also the only retailer to provide no nutrition information on the front of packs, although it has recently committed to include traffic light labelling during 2013.
Pepsico shows corporate commitment
Manufacturers have generally been less proactive than retailers with none of the companies we looked at yet committed to providing traffic light labelling. Pepsico stands out for scoring highly on corporate commitment and one of the companies taking more action on salt, saturated fat and sugar reductions.
Our findings show the Responsibility Deal’s voluntary approach is not delivering on its promises. A far more ambitious approach is needed, which ensures that there is further work to reduce salt, sugar and fat levels. We want to see traffic light labelling across the board and more responsible food promotions.
Responsibility Deal not delivering
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd has called for swift action from the government and has written a letter to public health minister Anna Soubry to outline our concerns.
Mr Lloyd said: ‘The pace of change among food companies must be dramatically increased and to drive this, the government should set out a much more ambitious approach.’
The Responsibility Deal is failing as a mechanism to drive enough change across the food industry and the government needs to act to make sure all companies raise their game.
- Read our next steps for making healthy eating easier
- Find out more about traffic light nutrition labels
- Join the food debate on Which? Conversation