Calorie limits for ready meals in supermarkets and restaurants as low as 544 calories are set to get the green light to tackle obesity, it has emerged.
Under plans drawn up by Public Health England (PHE) experts will also suggest sandwiches and main meal salads should be capped at 550 calories, with an upper limit of 951 calories for restaurant main courses.
The move is part of the Government's ongoing childhood obesity strategy, bidding to cut the calorie content of common foods by a fifth by 2024.
But critics have blasted the draft proposals, published in the The Daily Telegraph, which set out detailed caps for ready meals, sandwiches and even portions of vegetables served across the country.
The calorie limit is far below what many popular meals are today and manufacturers fear the guidelines are far too confusing and complicated to work in practice whilst also being unfair.
Under the plans, a restaurant pizza would be capped at a maximum of 657 calories – much lower than most served at pizza chain restaurants.
But supermarket pizzas would be allowed a higher cap of 1,038 calories.
Chips, waffles, mashed potato or veg portions in supermarkets should be 302 cals but in restaurants are allowed to be 416 cals.
The 100-page draft proposals also detail how portions of coleslaw, potato salad, onion bhajis, pakoras, vol-au-vents, tempura prawns, yorkshire puddings and prawn cocktails should have a 134 calories limit when sold by supermarkets.
But in restaurants the proposed limit for the same food is way higher at 555 calories.
Critics said the plans were “arbitrary, unscientific and unrealistic”.
Chris Snowdon, of the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, slammed the proposals.
He said: "The Government needs to bring PHE to heel before they ruin the food supply.
"The calorie caps are arbitrary, unscientific and unrealistic."
Tim Rycroft of the Food and Drink Federation, who represents manufacturers, said they had "reservations about how achievable the targets are in reality".
Meals that fall foul of the rules
- Waitrose Good to Go Brie & Bacon: 560 kcal
- Cafe Nero’s Meatball & Mozzarella panini: 583 kcal
- Sainsbury’s Tuna & Cucumber Sub Sandwich: 599 kcal
- Gregg’s Sausage Breakfast Baguette: 602 kcal
- Starbucks Chicken & Double-Smoked Bacon brioche: 620 kcal
- Pret’s Posh Cheddar & Pickle baguette: 621 kcal
- Tesco Finest Roast Chicken Bacon and Lincolnshire Sausage sandwich: 634 kcal
- EAT Classic Cheddar Ploughman’s Bloomer: 700 kcal
- Sainsbury's Chicken Bacon & Stuffing Sub Sandwich: 706 kcal
- Subway Footlong Chicken and Bacon Ranch Melt: 994 kcal
- Waitrose ham and mushroom tagliatelle: 585 kcal
- Tesco Bangers And Mash In Yorkshire Pudding 440g: 642 kcal
- Sainsbury's Crispy Sweet & Sour Chicken With Rice 400g (Serves 1): 767 kcal
- Tesco Macaroni Cheese 450g: 760 kcal
- M&S Spaghetti Carbonara: 660 kcal
- Sainsbury’s Beef Stew 450g (Serves 1): 661 kcal
- Waitrose Beef Cannelloni: 677 kcal
- ASDA Chicken Korma with Pilau Rice: 711 kcal
- Sainsbury's Duck In Plum Sauce With Egg Fried Rice 450g (Serves 1): 714 kcal
- Chef Select (stocked in Lidl) Creamy Chicken Pie: 736 kcal
- Sloppy Giuseppe: 897 kcals
- Pizza Express La Reine: 898 kcals
- Pizza Express Veneziana: 938 kcals
- Pizza Express Fiorentina: 942 kcals
- Pizza Express American: 1019 kcals
- Hungry Horse Chicken Tikka Masala Big Plate Special: 2,587 kcal
- Harvester Herb-Battered Halloumi & Chips: 1,099 kcal
- Bill’s Mussels with Cider Cream: 1,049 kcal
- Bill’s Breakfast: 1,110 kcal
- Wagamama’s Chicken Katsu Curry: 1,180 kcal
- Wagamama’s Chicken Samla Curry: 1,130 kcal
- Wagamama’s Chicken Raisukaree: 1,220 kcal
- Zizzi’s Duck Arrosot: 1,067 kcal
It comes after the country’s most senior doctor had proposed a series of new taxes on sugary and salty foods.
The draft plans also suggest capping calories at 302 for a portion of chips, mashed potato, waffles and vegetables like mushy peas if they are sold in a supermarket.
The food industry will need to meet the new calorie targets by 2024.
If they fail to make sufficient progress voluntarily, "other levers" may be introduced to force them to.
Figures released in October had previously suggested that restaurant pizzas would be limited to 920 calories.
Dr Alison Tedstone, PHE chief nutritionist, added: “These are early days in the calorie reduction programme but the food industry has a responsibility to act.
“We are consulting on ambitious guidelines to help tackle everyday excess calories – we welcome the industry’s feedback to help shape the final guidelines.
“Children and adults routinely eat too many calories and severe obesity in ten to eleven year olds has reached an all-time high."
The Sun Says
Obesity wrecks lives, as well as putting unbearable strain on the NHS.
But Public Health England’s 100-page proposal dictating caps on calorie levels for everything from onion bhajis to salad dressing is insane.
It will hit restaurants, manufacturers, supermarkets and, inevitably, customers.
Brits ate more in the 1970s but were slimmer as we led more active lives.
Getting people off their couches would reverse our obesity problem far more effectively than punitive meddling.
The Tories are supposed to be the party of free choice.
They should remember that.
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