Public health watchdog National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has warned that more than 40,000 Britons are dying each year because of the high levels of salt and fat in their diets.
It called for changes to be made to food production and government policy to encourage lifestyle changes, and to significantly reduce the amount of salt and saturated fat the nation consumes.
AdvertisementThe organisation further said that "toxic" artificial fats known as trans fats, which have no nutritional value and are linked to heart disease, should be banned.
It also pushed forward the idea that ministers should consider introducing legislation if food manufacturers failed to make their products healthier.
And for the first time the organisation published a landmark guidance on how to prevent the "huge number of unnecessary deaths" caused by heart disease linked to the consumption of ready meals and processed food.
The guidance, which was commissioned by the Department of Health, recommended that low-salt and low-fat foods should be sold more cheaply, through the use of subsidies if necessary.
Unhealthy foods should not be advertised until after 9pm, and fast food outlets especially near schools should be restricted.
The Common Agricultural Policy should focus more on public health, ensuring farmers are paid to produce healthier foods, and action should be taken to introduce a "traffic light" food labelling system.
It also said that local authorities must act to encourage walking and cycling and public sector caterers must provide healthier meals, and that lobbying of the Government and its agencies by the food and drink industry should be fully disclosed.
Prof Klim McPherson, the Chairman of the Nice Guidance Development Group and professor of epidemiology at Oxford University, said that food should be healthy but less expensive and attractive.Put simply, this guidance can help the Government and the food industry to take action to prevent huge numbers of unnecessary deaths and illnesses caused by heart disease and stroke," the Telegraph quoted McPherson as saying.
Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, added that the Nice guidance demonstrates conclusively why we need to change radically our approach to this vast and silent killer.
"Many of the diet-related recommendations made by Nice have the added benefit of costing the public purse little to nothing, while creating an opportunity to reduce the tens of billions of pounds of associated costs the UK loses every year to heart disease," he added.