Ready meals, one of convenience retailing’s mainstays, is under attack, hard on the heels of fizzy drinks.

Public Health England (PHE), the government body concerned with health and wellbeing and health inequalities, said it was likely to target ready meals, pizzas, burgers, and savoury snacks in a programme to remove excess calories from the foods children consume most.

The news comes hard on the heels of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy passing into law and which takes effect next April.

Now the PHE aims for a 20% reduction in sugar in key foods by 2020.

Philip Dunne, health minister, said too many children were growing up obese.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said: “We will work with the food companies and retailers to tackle this as the next critical step in combating our childhood obesity problem.”

PHE said it would publish evidence early next year and then consult with the food industry and other bodies to develop guidance and timelines for its calorie reduction programme.

Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, deputy director food policy at the British Retail Consortium said improving the composition of products was a top priority for retailers.

“A lot of work is currently underway to reduce sugar. We are putting a call out for any information on technical solutions and alternatives to sugar, to help retailers deliver tasty but more wholesome products.”