A survey commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) has found that around nine in ten people support the government working with the food industry to make food healthier.

The survey, carried out by Ipsos Mori, explored the public’s perception of obesity and PHE’s reduction programmes that have challenged the food industry to reduce sugar and calories by 20% in everyday foods such as breakfast cereals, yogurts, pizzas and ready meals.

The findings also showed that people expect the government to tackle obesity, with 60% believing it could do more; however the survey was undertaken before the government published chapter two of its Childhood Obesity Plan - of which chapter one was widely derided.

“Severe obesity in ten-to-eleven year olds is at an all-time high. Plans to improve the nation’s diet are often described as ‘nanny state’ interference, but it’s clear people want healthier food and they expect the industry to play their full part in this,” said Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE.

The survey also revealed that more than nine in ten respondents believe obesity is a problem in the UK, and 79% believe it has a negative impact on the NHS, while only cancer (47% of respondents) and mental health (43%) are seen as bigger health concerns for the UK population than obesity (39%).

According to public health minister Steve Brine: “One in three children are now overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, as a result of dangerous overconsumption, combined with reduced activity, which is having a catastrophic effect on our children’s health, limiting their potential and putting them at risk of a shorter life.”

These figures come as Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, tells the food industry that next year PHE will highlight where progress has not been made on sugar reduction, and that this may result in further action from government.