Retailers are demonstrating the effectiveness of working with customers to help them make the lifestyle changes needed in the fight against obesity, according to the British Retail Consortium.

In a report published this morning, the BRC said that major food retailers are responding to customer demand and delivering healthier choices, better food information and driving change in what customers buy “more comprehensively than legislation ever could”.

British Retailing: A Commitment to Health is the third BRC publication of its kind in six years. The 2009 report assesses the progress achieved since the last report was published three years ago. Participants included Asda, Boots, Burger King, The Co-operative Group, Iceland, Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Achieving healthier diets is about more than targets, labelling rules or promotion bans. UK retailers have been Europe’s leaders on health and nutrition for years. This report shows they continue to drive the agenda forward and challenge other countries to catch up.”

Speaking at the launch of the report today, public health minister Dawn Primarolo said: “Companies putting calorie content on their menus, promoting fruit and veg and taking steps to cut the amount of salt, fat and sugar in their own brand products is encouraging.”

The report covers current food-retailing issues including labelling, reformulation of products, portion sizes, increasing consumption of healthy foods and nutritional information in in-store cafes and staff canteens.