People need to be honest with themselves about how much they eat and drink in order to tackle obesity, the government has said.

Launching a new “ambition” to bring down England’s obesity levels by 2020, health secretary Andrew Lansley stressed he was not in favour of regulating the food and drink industry.

He said government and business had a role to play but people also needed to take responsibility for their own health.

Overall, Britons should be eating five billion fewer calories a day than at present, he added.

The new obesity strategy says that, on average, adults are exceeding their recommended calorie intake by 10 per cent.

Mr Lansley said obesity not only harmed people’s health but also had a broader impact on the health service and the economy.

The new “call to action” was about bringing together government, industry and the public, including making sure they had the right information to make healthy choices.

Responding to the strategy, Lindsey Davies, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said: “This is a long-awaited report and we will scrutinise it thoroughly to see how it will improve the public’s health and waistlines.”

But she added: “The report says that the government will ‘do what it can’ to help people make better choices, and it is asking all of us to do what we can to take responsibility for our own health. We are disappointed that the government has not yet stepped up to its responsibility to protect the public’s health by banning transfats and introducing a minimum price for alcohol.

“The smoking ban has demonstrated how changing the law can improve health and save thousands of lives. The government must use the law as well as ‘nudge’ techniques to create a culture that makes it easy for people to make healthy choices and consume fewer calories.”