Researchers at London's Centre for Food Policy have slammed fast-food chains Burger King, McDonald's, Pizza Hut and KFC, as well as contract caterers Sodexho and Compass, for not taking the issue of healthy eating seriously enough.
In a comprehensive report, which looks at 25 of the world's largest food companies, the academics based at City University accuse the companies of having made only minimal improvements in response to the World Health Organisation's 2004 recommendations to tackle health issues through diet.
In response, McDonalds argued it had reduced the salt in its fries and in its chicken McNuggets, as well as significantly lowering the amount of unsaturated fat used in its cooking oil.
A Sodexho spokeswoman also defended the company's progress and said: "Our approach has been to adopt the best of government guidelines and to reduce levels of salt, sugar and fat intake and increase fibre within the products we serve - this is a three-to-five year programme."
However, Professor of Food Policy at City and report co-author, Tim Lang, warned: "Companies should be wary about doing the minimum or presenting a few hurried initiatives in self-promotional terms. Companies actions must move from being purely defensive or centred on obviating threats to their reputations."
By Mark Newton