What is the calorie reduction programme?
The calorie reduction programme challenges the food industry to achieve a 20% reduction in calories by 2024 in product categories that contribute significantly to children’s calorie intakes (up to the age of 18 years) and where there is scope for substantial reformulation and/or portion size reduction.
- This requires work to be undertaken by retailers and manufacturers, restaurants, pubs, cafes, takeaway and delivery services and others in the eating out of home sector.
- The products covered by the programme include ready meals, pizzas, meat products, savoury snack products, sauces and dressings, prepared sandwiches, composite salads and other “on the go” foods including meal deals.
- It does not cover foods included in the sugar reduction programme.
- Shifting consumer purchasing towards lower calorie options provides an additional mechanism for action.
- The calorie reduction programme focuses on large businesses that are providing the greatest volume of foods and consequentially calories into the food chain.
Why is the calorie reduction programme necessary?
On average, compared with those with healthy body weights, overweight and obese children consume substantial amounts of excess calories every day, above what is required for a healthy body weight. These vary between 140 and 500 excess calories per day, depending on their age and sex. At a population level, on average, adults also consume 200-300 excess calories a day. In reality, the prevalence of excess weight increases throughout childhood and for adults, being highest among adults between the ages of 45 and 74.
- The health and economic benefits of reducing the calorie content of these foods and excess calorie consumption are significant.
- Excess weight increases the risk of conditions such as heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes in adulthood.
- A 20% reduction in calories from everyday foods that contribute to intakes, if achieved over 5 years, would prevent 35,370 premature deaths, save the NHS £4.5 billion healthcare costs and save social care costs of around £4.48 billion, over a 25-year period.
- Taking action to reduce calories in this way will incorporate foods providing an additional 19% of the calories consumed by children into the reduction and reformulation programme.
- Together with the sugar reduction programme (25% of calories) and the soft drinks levy (5% of calories), this will broadly account for 50% of children’s overall calorie intakes.
The calorie reduction programme will also help adults
The average person in England is now overweight. Consuming a healthy diet means making food choices that are in line with both calorie requirements and the principles of a healthy, balanced diet. On average, diets in the UK are not in line with these principles and contain too much sugar, saturated fat and salt and not enough fibre and fruit and vegetables. Although the calorie reduction programme focuses on foods consumed by children up to the age of 18 years, the reality is that families eat the same foods and the will therefore support all family members in reducing their calorie consumption.
- The programme will help all family members to reduce calorie consumption, reducing the risk of weight gain and the consequences of this to health.
- It will help to reduce health inequalities, as levels of childhood obesity, tend to be the highest in the most deprived.
- As a result of the calorie reduction programme the healthier choice becomes the default choice for families.
It is currently anticipated that the industry guidelines will be published mid-2019 alongside baseline levels of calories in the food categories included in the programme for the year ending August 2017.
- The reduction and reformulation programme is a key intervention that can contribute to reducing the incidence of childhood obesity.
- If the ambitions set out in the programme are achieved clear benefits should be accomplished.
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