The UK has been picked to head a project to tackle the international food and drinks industry and reduce sugar contents, calorie intake and global obesity rates.
More than 50 countries are being encouraged to join the new initiative as the World Health Organisation announced that Britain would lead the Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network after a successful domestic project.
The network will address rising rates of global obesity by looking at ways to cut sugar and calories in food and drink.
In the UK, a focus on reduction led to sugars being reduced by 13 per cent of breakfast cereals, yogurts and fromage frais.
“It’s a testament to the success of our pioneering work in the UK to help people eat more healthily that we have been chosen to lead this programme,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.
“We will work closely with our European partners to challenge the food industry to reduce sugar and calories in its products – reducing obesity, relieving pressure on health services and increasing our resilience to Covid-19 and any future pandemics.”
In a global market, where food is increasingly supplied by the same international companies, collective action on reducing sugar and calories will galvanise the food industry to take greater and faster action, the UK said.
Network member states will share lessons and skills to encourage manufacturers to reformulate products into healthier food.
“Obesity is a global problem and we need to take urgent action to help people live healthier lives,” Public Health Minister Jo Churchill said.
“This starts with the food and drink we consume and reducing the elements that are bad for our health.
“I am delighted the UK will lead this international network to reformulate products and promote healthier food choices for people across Europe."
The WHO network will support the UK’s existing commitments to the sugar and calorie reduction programmes.
The UK initiative challenged the food industry across the UK to reduce the sugar and calorie in foods most commonly consumed by children.
Evidence suggests that people living with obesity are at greater risk of being seriously ill and dying from Covid.
By taking action to reduce sugar and calories in food and drink, the network will not only address rising rates of global obesity but increase global resilience both to Covid and future pandemics, the UK said.
The WHO's Sugar and Calorie Reduction Network will launch in spring 2022 and the WHO EU will be reaching out to member states inviting them to join.
The WHO EU region covers about 50 countries, meaning that it extends beyond the European Union borders.