The eating out sector has been urged to step up its efforts to reduce sugar content, with other food sectors accusing it of failing to engage with Public Health England (PHE) and creating an unfair playing field.

PHE has suggested portion sizes and calorie intake from a range of products in restaurants, bars and cafes, including biscuits, ice creams and puddings, were more than twice that of the average in other sectors.

It comes as government body PHE yesterday revealed the food industry had failed to meet a voluntary target to cut sugar by 5%, only managing 2%.

PHE said it would be unable to report back on the eating out sector’s success in meeting reduction targets until at least spring 2019 due to a lack of data.

PHE chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said: “From the information we have, a lot of the portion sizes in this sector are massive.

“More than double that in other sectors. We are starting to see commitment from some of the biggest suppliers but it’s obviously a key area of concern for us.”

Tim Rycroft, Food and Drink Federation director of corporate affairs, said: “The out of home sector must show a greater commitment to engaging with this programme.

“In many categories, the calorie content per portion of food served in cafés, coffee shops and restaurants is almost double that of manufacturers and retailers - this is at a time when 25% of total calorie consumption takes place outside the home.”

PHE, which is seeking a reduction in sugar content across all sectors of 20% by 2020, recorded reductions in sugar levels in five out of the eight food categories where progress had been measured.

Yoghurts and fromage frais (-6%) breakfast cereals (-5%), plus sweet spreads and sauces (-5%) all hit or exceeded the target of a 5% fall in sugar per 100g across the period.

However, other sectors including biscuits (0%), chocolate confectionery (0%) and puddings (+1%) either failed to reduce the average sugar content at all or saw it increase.