Food industry information on obesity
The most recent government figures (Health Survey for England – 2010: Health and
Lifestyles) show that in England there has been a marked increase in the
proportion of obese people from 1993 to 2010; from 13% to 26% for men and from
26% for women.
Since 2007 the figures appear to have leveled out, although it is too early to
tell if this is a significant long term trend.
The same report also found that in 2010, 17% of boys aged 2 to 15, and 15% of
girls were classed as obese, an increase from 11% and 12% respectively in 1995.
the time pupils are starting reception class (age 4-5), almost 1 in 10 are
classified as obese.
Obesity refers to an excess of body fat, and in adults is measured by the body
mass index (BMI) which is defined as a person's weight (in kilograms) divided
their height (in meters) squared. Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30kg/m2 or
over. In children it is defined using the British 1990 standard growth
Rising levels of obesity are a public health concern due to the association
between obesity and morbidity and mortality. An obese 40 year old will, on
have a reduced life expectancy of 6 to 7 years. There is also an increased risk
of many chronic diseases include type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high
blood pressure (which is linked to an increased risk of stroke) and cancer.
results in reduced quality of life for the individual and an increased burden
the economy, both in terms of healthcare provision and loss of working days.
The Foresight report suggests that if current obesity levels continue, by 2050
about 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children in the UK will be obese. The
associated chronic health problems are projected to cost society an additional
£45.5 billion a year.
Weight gain occurs when overall energy intakes consistently exceed energy
requirements, leading to weight gain. Both diet and physical activity have a
play in maintaining energy balance. Put simply the number of calories we eat
needs to match the amount of physical activity we do to keep our weight
The members of the Food and Drink Federation share society's concerns about the
health of the nation, particularly in relation to rising obesity levels, and
absolutely committed to playing a positive role in responding to this vital
debate. We are currently working constructively with Government and other
stakeholders to improve public health through the Responsibility Deal in
England and the
Obesity Action Plan in Scotland.
Our commitment is long-standing: we published our first health and wellbeing
action plan way back in 2004 and in 2007 we established a Health and Wellbeing
Steering Group to work constructively with Government, regulators and others to
find solutions to the complex issues at the heart of the diet and health
challenge here in the UK.
Our work has included:
- Reducing salt, fat and energy in our products whilst maintaining food safety,
quality and taste. We have also virtually eliminated the use of artificial
- Developing 'low-in' products as part of our ranges and providing a range of
portion sizes to enable individuals to select smaller portions
- Developing new packaging, such as re-sealable packs, so that customers do not
have to consume a product 'in one go' and are able to minimise waste and
- Promoting healthy lifestyles within our own workforces and the communities
within which we operate
- Providing clear, consistent information on food labels based on Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) to enable consumers to make informed choices
To try and better understand the impact of our members' ongoing work around
reformulation, renovation and product innovation, in 2010 FDF asked Kantar
to look at nutrition information for approximately 28,000 branded products made
by FDF members.
On an average grams per 100g basis, it is clear that there have been significant
reductions in the relative nutrient density of the products sold by our members
between 2005 and today from 4.5% on energy density to 9% on saturated fat.
These achievements of course stand on top of the progress made by industry
before 2006 – and many individual categories of food have made even more
than this average figure.
But at an overall industry level, this new data shows that the progress made in
the last five years is genuinely impressive. That 9% average reduction on
saturated fat – for instance – equates to around 3,000 tonnes less saturated
put in shoppers' trolleys today compared with five years ago, despite
significantly higher volumes sold through the major retailers.
Our members have also been developing workplace wellbeing schemes that go way
beyond the traditional health and safety agenda to focus on the health of their
employees. FDF published recently its Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit which features case studies outlining the schemes run by several FDF members,
as well as the work FDF is doing itself to increase workplace wellbeing.
You can find out more about how our industry has been working to reduce obesity
and provide consumers with the information they need to make their own healthy
choices in Stepping up to the plate - Industry in action on public health .
Last reviewed: 11 Oct 2012