The portion sizes of some of Britain’s most popular foods are to be cut, with health officials telling the public it is time “to get on a diet”.
Public Health England is targeting pizzas, ready meals, processed meat and takeaways, in a new obesity drive.
The government agency has also urged the food industry to start using healthier ingredients and encourage the public to opt for lower calorie foods.
It is all part of a drive to cut calorie consumption by 20% by 2024.
The target will apply to 13 different food groups, responsible for a fifth of the calorie intake of children.
But PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said the steps were as much about influencing the diets of adults.
“Britain needs to go on a diet. Children and adults routinely eat too many calories, and it’s why so many are overweight or obese.”
If action is not taken, PHE said, it would be prepared to ask the government to legislate.
It would be strictly monitoring progress by looking at which products people were buying and would be prepared to “name and shame” individual companies not pulling their weight.
How many calories should we eat?
It is recommended that women should eat no more than 2,000 calories a day, while men should limit their intake to 2,500.
For children, it varies depending on age.
A four-year-old should consume no more than 1,300, while for males aged 17 and 18 it is about 3,000, but overweight and obese children are consuming up to 500 calories more than that.
The move has been backed by experts.
Prof Russell Viner, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said it was a “bold and necessary” move.
He said over the past 40 years there had been a “creep” in portion sizes, with pizzas and hamburgers “simply much bigger than they were in our parents’ time”.
“The availability of fast food at pocket money prices and the advertising of unhealthy food and drinks to children add to the problem,” he added.
Food and Drink Federation (FDF) boss Ian Wright said it was the right approach and industry was fully supportive.
“The FDF and its members take their responsibility in tackling obesity seriously,” he said.