Sugar and salt should be more heavily taxed and the public should slash its meat consumption by a third, an independent review of Britain’s food policy has recommended.
Henry Dimbleby, the co-founder of the Leon restaurant chain who led the review, also said doctors should prescribe fruit and vegetables to stop the “terrible damage” fatty diets are doing.
The report calls for a £3 ($4.16) per kilogram tax on sugar and a £6 per kilogram tax on salt sold for use in processed foods.
It is hoped the tax would encourage manufacturers to adjust to a healthier product mix by changing recipes or reducing portion sizes.
But think tanks warned families would struggle to make ends meet with the new taxes, and the report acknowledged healthier foods are more expensive per calorie than unhealthy foods.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance, Adam Smith Institute and Institute of Economic Affairs estimated taxes would see an average family food bill increase by £172 annually.
The report said current eating habits are destroying the environment, which in turn threatens Britain's food security.
The food we eat accounts for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the review.
"The way we produce food is doing terrible damage to the environment and to our bodies, and putting an intolerable strain on the National Health Service," Mr Dimbleby said.
"Covid-19 has been a painful reality check. Our high obesity rate has been a major factor in the UK’s tragically high death rate. We must now seize the moment to build a better food system for our children and grandchildren.”
Britain has suffered the world's seventh highest death toll from Covid-19, with more than 128,000 fatalities.
The report, commissioned by the government in 2019, urges food education to be central to the national curriculum, and for food standards to be protected in any new trade deals.
The report also recommends measures to restore and protect Britain's natural environment, by investing in sustainable farming techniques and new food technologies.
According to the report, poor diets contribute to around 64,000 deaths every year in England alone and cost the economy about £74 billion annually.
It claims more than half of over-45s in Britain now live with diet-related health conditions.
The report sets out how British diets will need to change over the next decade in order to meet the government’s existing targets on health, climate and nature.
By 2032, fruit and vegetable consumption will have to increase by 30 per cent and fibre consumption by 50 per cent, while consumption of food high in saturated fat, salt and sugar will have to go down by 25 per cent, and meat consumption should reduce by 30 per cent.
The report estimates its recommendations will cost around £1.4 billion per year, but will reep about £3.4 billion pounds per year in tax revenue.
The government has committed to responding to the report in a White Paper policy document within six months.