UK regulator looking to food industry to cut salt, portion sizes

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 2nd December 2009

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has created a list of recommendations to the food industry designed to reduce saturated fat and to increase the availability of healthier options and smaller portion sizes in savoury snacks.

Meat products and dairy foods are key contributors of saturated fat and calories to our diet, the FSA noted. Many savoury snacks have been reformulated to reduce saturated fat recently, but they remain a focus because they are often high in fat and calories. As a result, the Agency is proposing the following voluntary recommendations for industry:

* Dairy foods – further promote the supply and sale of 1% fat (or less) milk, reduced-fat Cheddar cheese and lower-fat ice cream.
* Meat products – reduce the fat and saturated fat content of sausages, meat pies and pastries.
* Savoury snacks – make single packs of 30g or less more widely available and increase promotion of/encourage consumer interest in the smaller pack sizes.
* All products – increase marketing efforts towards the promotion of reduced/low-fat options, with particular emphasis on lower-fat spreads.

The consultation also covers the scope to amend the legislation on ice cream and Cheddar cheese. The current Food Labelling Regulations do not allow lower-fat versions of these products (below a specified fat content level) to be labelled as ice cream or Cheddar cheese.

“The Agency’s proposals are a challenge for the industry, but we know that many businesses have already made great progress in improving the healthiness of their products,” Clair Baynton, the Agency’s Head of Nutrition, said. “Our aim is to ensure that people have a range of smaller portion sizes and lower-saturated-fat options to choose from when shopping, which will make it easier for them to eat a healthier diet.”

This is the second of two consultations proposing voluntary action to reduce saturated fat and calories in foods. The first, which was launched in July 2009 and closed on 3 November 2009, covered soft drinks with added sugar, chocolate confectionery and biscuits, cakes, pastries and buns.

The food industry welcomed the challenge, although they are concerned about the impact of new regulation on food advertising.

“UK food producers are rightly proud of the incredible work they have done to change the recipes of popular products so that they are lower in calories, fat and saturated fat – while making no compromises on quality or taste,” Julian Hunt, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Director of Communications, said. “However, EU Regulation will make it harder for companies to make nutrition claims from January 2010 – and may prevent them from rising to the FSA’s challenge on marketing. Therefore, we are urging the Agency and the Government to do more to lobby Brussels about this Regulation before it is too late.”