UK must cut five billion calories a day to tackle obesity crisis, says Lansley - The Guardian

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Andrew Lansley
Obesity can be tackled if people eat and drink less, according to Andrew Lansley. Photograph: David Gadd/Allstar/Sportsphoto Ltd

The nation needs to slash five billion calories from its daily diet – the equivalent of 16.9m cheeseburgers – according to the health secretary, Andrew Lansley.

Faced with an obesity crisis that a succession of initiatives on exercise have failed to turn around, Lansley and the chief medical officer, Sally Davies, have issued a call to action on diet, urging people to act responsibly and reduce the food and drink they consume.

Alcohol, they said, was part of the problem – responsible for 10% of our calorie intake.

Lansley framed the new plan not as a strategy but as a "national ambition" in which, he said, the food and drink industry had a major part to play.

As part of the responsibility deal with food and beverage companies, Lansley will be asking the industry to reduce the calories in their products. A 3% to 5% reduction in the calorie content in an average shopping basket would cut obesity without the consumer even noticing any change in the food they eat, experts say.

"We have already seen how we can move further, faster, through the responsibility deal and I am now challenging business to help us make even greater progress," said Lansley. "Reducing the number of calories we consume is essential."

Most people in the UK – 60% – are obese or overweight, and so are a third of children.

Lansley believes the new "national ambition" – which he compared to Michelle Obama's campaign in the US – can finally turn the figures around, and reverse the upward trend by 2020.

He proposes to invest in the social marketing campaign Change 4 Life, which not long ago was facing cuts, and he will urge local authorities to do more.

13 Oct, 2011

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