Public Health England is issuing new guidelines for calories and portion sizes in bought food because it says the population is too fat.
It wants food manufacturers to cut calories by 20% to tackle the country’s obesity epidemic.
Studies have found obese children consume up to 500 calories a day more than they need.
Duncan Selbie, PHE chief executive, said: “Britain needs to go on a diet.
“The simple truth is on average we need to eat less. Children and adults routinely eat too many calories and it’s why so many are overweight or obese.”
PHE is targeting 13 popular food types, including takeaways, soups, meat products, cooking sauces and supermarket ready meals, including packaged sandwiches.
If the five-year target is met, then PHE predicts that over the next 25 years more than 35,000 early deaths could be prevented and the NHS and social care sector could save around £9billion.
PHE wants people to remember the numbers 400-600-600, which is the recommended average calorie count for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The average adult takes in 200 to 300 excess calories a day. For overweight and obese boys it is 140 to 500, depending on their age, and for girls, 160 to 290.
PHE aims to tackle worrying rates of diabetes, cancer and dementia, which are linked to obesity. If its five-year target is not met, the Government could pass laws forcing the food industry to act. The new guidance comes almost a year after PHE ordered manufacturers to cut sugar in 12 food products in five years.
And sugar levels in soft drinks are plummeting as manufacturers take action to reformulate their products in the run-up to the imposition of the sugar tax levy next month.
PHE nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said obesity was now “the norm”.
She said: “To get traction on this the big-selling things need to change. A few healthy options on the end of a menu won’t help solve the nation’s obesity problem. We need the regular, everyday products to change.”
Prof Russell Viner, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “This is bold and necessary action. A number of factors contribute to eating too many calories, in particular the creep in portion sizes in the last 40 years.
“Our food portions, particularly pizzas and hamburgers, are simply much bigger than they were. It is our environment that pushes children to consume too many calories, far more than it is individual choices by families.”
Christopher Snowdon, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The nanny state zealots at Public Health England have lost the plot. The 74% of us who are not obese don’t want our food degraded.”
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