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Update from GOV.UK – New voluntary calorie guidelines to help industry tackle obesity

  • United Kingdom
  • Health and safety
  • Litigation and dispute management
  • Consumer
  • Food and drink


With almost two-thirds of adults in England classified as overweight or obese [source], the government has launched a national effort against COVID-19 and obesity. A recent Public Health England report found that being obese or excessively overweight can significantly increase the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.

On 7 September, the government announced new voluntary calorie reduction guidelines to make it easier for us to choose healthy options in everyday meals and foods, calling for support from the food industry. The guidelines are:

  • 20% calorie reduction for most meal categories in the eating out of home, takeaway and delivery sector, alongside a maximum calorie guideline for all categories
  • for children’s meal bundles, a 10% calorie reduction ambition has been set to reflect progress already made
  • 10% calorie reduction ambition for retailers making ready meals, chips and garlic bread, alongside a maximum calorie guideline for all categories
  • for crisps and savoury snacks, a 5% ambition
  • combined guidelines for both sectors have been set for sandwiches (5% ambition) and pizza and pastry products (20% ambition)

This announcement coincides with new salt reduction targets for 2024, which businesses are expected to work towards achieving. The aim is to reduce salt intake from the current average of 8.4g per day towards the recommended 6g, as identified by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in 2003, to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and hence cardiovascular disease.

As these measures are voluntary, it remains to be seen how the food industry will embrace these calorie reduction guidelines. Given the recent pressures and strain faced by the industry, understandably this may not be a top priority for struggling businesses currently trying to keep up with COVID-secure guidelines. However, there is a warning that “the government remains committed to further action if results are not seen”.


For further support on regulatory compliance or your obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Natascha Gaut at and Claire Watson at