UK Responsibility Deal: Sweet success or sleight of hand?

The UK Department of Health hails its Responsibility Deal a success in its annual update, but reports emerge that companies have failed to meet sugar and salt targets.

The UK Department of Health (DoH) pinpointed calorie reduction and alcohol pledges as two main areas of progress within the voluntary public health scheme. 

Commenting on the annual review, public health minister Jane Ellison said no business could afford to ignore the health of its customers and staff. “These returns show that by working in partnership with industry, we are making real progress towards getting the nation into healthy habits for life,” she said. 

Meanwhile in a report by UK newspaper The Telegraph, it was claimed these targets have been a game of smoke and mirrors – with companies reducing calories and salt levels in some brands, but leaving flagship products untouched. It accused Coca-Cola of reducing the amount of sugar in drinks like Sprite but leaving its best known brand unchanged. 

Salt reduction: 82 signatories

Non use of artificial trans fat: 91 signatories

Artificial trans fat removal: 11 signatories

Calorie reduction: 37 signatories

Fruit and vegetables: 44 signatories

Front of pack nutrition labelling (implementation): 23 signatories

Front of pack nutrition labelling (communication to consumers): 17 signatories

Saturated fat reduction: 15 signatories

Salt reduction 2017: 7 signatories

In a statement issued to FoodNavigator, Coca-Cola UK said it had no plans to change its Coca-Cola drink.

Corporate cooperation 

The company said: We have no plans to change Coca-Cola.  We know that people love it and we provide two great-tasting sugar-free, no calorie options in Diet Coke and Coca-Cola Zero, which together comprise more than 40% of the cola we sell in the UK.”

“As part of our Responsibility Deal calorie reduction pledge we have reformulated Sprite with 30% less sugar and calories. We have also introduced a new slimline 250ml Coca-Cola can to provide our consumers with greater choice around portion size,” a UK spokesperson said.

Ellison admitted that there was still room for improvement. “Whilst it is very encouraging to see so many companies getting behind the Responsibility Deal, we know there remains more to be done. We cannot credibly tackle the major public health challenges our country faces without engaging with the companies that play such a big part in people’s lives and it is vital that momentum is maintained,” she said.

The DoH said: “From reducing calories in meals and drinks, reformulating foods to reduce salt content or putting clearer labelling on products, good progress is being made across the board.”

It gave the example of Britvic’s calorie reduction pledge, which has seen the firm shift to produce their no added sugar Fruit Shoot only in the UK. It said this would remove around 2.2 bn calories from the childrens’ drinks market.

Related News

Modified proteins could aid fat reduction efforts in a wider range of products - including cakes and breads, say researchers.

Fat replacement: Researchers modify protein to mimic and replace fat in a wider range of food

Unearthed Mars correspondence with UK Department of Health reveals firms concern that mandatory plain packaging in the tobacco industry would set a "key precedent" for the application of similar legislation to other industries including  food.

Plain packaging pay out to Mars would ‘certainly not be trivial’, says Institute of Economic Affairs

'Light in calories' chocolate requires drastic changes to the formulation

Significant changes required for ‘light in calories’ chocolate

Special Brew 500ml currently contains 4.5 units of alcohol - above the guidelines in the UK government's responsibility deal

Special Brew review: Carlsberg ponders 9% ABV change

'What I have always said and continue to say is that there is a limit to how much you can do through voluntary means,' says Dr Susan Jebb

Voluntary public health measures 'can only go so far’: UK Responsibility Deal chair

Failing to reformulate would be like slow food poisoning of the nation, says UK National Health Service CEO

Sugar reformulation failure like slow poisoning of nation, says UK health chief

UK minister Anna Sourby warned the food and drink industry that they may face legislative action unless more sign up to the Government's responsibility deals.

Industry making progress on public health goals, but more work to do, says UK minister

The UK has been more effective in salt reduction than any other developed country, according to WASH

UK government to introduce new salt reduction targets for industry

Some own-brand ready meals contain almost twice the WHO recommended levels for free sugars, finds the Which? investigation.

Shocking levels of sugar in UK ready meals, says Which?

How rapidly can industry cut sugar?

Action on Sugar sketches sugar reduction plans

Action on Sugar: Global compaign takes aim at high sugar foods

Action on Sugar: New global campaign takes aim at high level of sugar in foods and drinks

Action on sugar? Reducing sugar in foods and drinks could boost industry profits too, says policy expert

Action on sugar? Reducing sugar in foods and drinks could boost industry profits too, says policy expert

Sugar and obesity: AB Sugar says singling out sugar is 'misleading'

‘Misleading’ to single out sugar as a lead cause of obesity, says AB Sugar

Related Products

See more related products