An independent review of the food that is eaten has suggested that sugar and salt be taxed and vegetables prescribed by the NHS.
The report, led by businessman Henry Dimbleby, said taxes raised could extend free school meal provision and support better diets among the poorest.
England’s National Food Strategy also wants GPs to try prescribing fruit and vegetables to encourage healthy eating.
Boris Johnson has however noted that he was not attracted to extra taxes on hard-working people.
The prime minister added that he would study the report, and he has promised that government would respond with proposals for future laws within six months.
Meanwhile, the food industry has warned that new taxes on wholesale sugar and salt could lead to higher food prices in shops.
Ian Wright, of the Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, said: “Obesity and food is very much about poverty, and we need measures to tackle poverty and to help people to make choices they need to make.”
The review, commissioned by the government in 2019, said historic reforms of the food system are needed to protect the NHS, improve the health of the nation and save the environment.
The new taxes would be applied to wholesale sugar and salt purchased by manufacturers, which could in turn raise some prices on shelves.
But Dimbleby said: “We do not actually believe that for most things it will hike the price – what it will do is it will reformulate, it will make people take sugar and salt out.”
The review described the Covid-19 pandemic as a “painful reality check” that has revealed the scale of food-related ill-health.
His words “Our high obesity rate has been a major factor in the UK’s tragically high death rate.”
Dimbleby, who co-founded the fast-food chain, Leon, told the BBC that the focus should turn to prevent people from getting to the NHS.
He said his proposals – if implemented in full – could save 38 calories per person per day, thus, helping the average person lose 2kg (4.4lb) in weight a year.
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