The UK’s seven largest food retailers have all signed up to the government’s plans, launched today, to curb unhealthy eating and excess drinking.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is unveiling the Public Health Responsibility Deal which will see retailers pledging to provide calorie information for all food products, increase alcohol unit awareness and expanding funding to local alcohol programmes.
Along with Asda, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, The Co-operative Group and Waitrose, several other members of the British Retail Consortium, the industry representative group, have committed themselves to the deal.
Andrew Opie, Food Director of the BRC, commented: “Customers make the final decision about what goes in their baskets but retailers do a lot to help shoppers look after their own and their families’ health.
“Retailers have pioneered healthy eating initiatives such as the introduction of clear calorie information on packs and the removal of artificial trans-fats.
“They offer customers thousands of healthy products to choose from and these are often included in promotions and special offers.”
Lansley’s plans have already come under criticism however, with six leading health groups refusing to sign up to the deal because the measures do not go far enough in regards to alcohol.
Alcohol Concern, the British Association for the Study of the Liver, the British Liver Trust, the British Medical Association, the Institute of Alcohol Studies and the Royal College of Physicians told the BBC yesterday that more needed to be done to make alcohol less affordable.
Don Shenker, CEO of Alcohol Concern, said: “It’s all carrot and no stick for the drinks industry and supermarkets.
“By allowing the drinks industry to propose such half-hearted pledges on alcohol with no teeth, this government has clearly shown that, when it comes to public health, its first priority is to side with big business and protect private profit.”
In January the government revealed its plans to set minimum pricing on alcoholic drinks but most shop prices would not be affected by its proposals which will force retailers, pubs and bars to charge at least the cost of tax they paid on the product.
Many within retailing were relieved by the move, arguing that penalising the industry at such a difficult time economically was counterproductive and that retailers were already committed to promoting healthy living.
Opie added: “Having a healthier population involves everyone playing their part. The Responsibility Deal is more evidence that the retail sector takes its responsibilities seriously.”