Seven of the country’s largest food retailers have joined the government’s controversial responsibility deal, which is aimed at improving public health while avoiding regulation.

Asda, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, The Co-operative and Waitrose have all signed up to the plan.

It comes as six major health organisations refused to enlist as partners on the alcohol aspects, accusing the government of allowing the drinks industry to dictate health policy.

In the latest move, retailers will increase awareness of alcohol units on drinks and are giving cash to regional programmes aimed at tackling alcohol abuse.

It is hoped other sectors, such as manufacturing and catering, will join up in the future.

Over the weekend, Heineken announced it would cut the alcohol content of one of its major brands after signing up to the responsibility deal.

The firm, which makes drinks including Foster’s, John Smith’s, Strongbow and Bulmers, will also carry unit information on all its branded drinking glasses.

Asda has also promised to end front-of-store alcohol displays by the end of April and has pledged £1m to community projects.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley wants firms and charities to join the deal to reduce the amount of unhealthy sugar, salt and fat in food, and encourage people to drink responsibly.

He hopes measures aimed at better labelling and more information for consumers will eliminate the need for regulation.

Around 150 companies have already signed up to some aspects of the deal, including putting calories on menus, cutting salt and removing trans fats.