The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has today launched a £3.5m advertising campaign to encourage consumers to reduce their intake of saturated fat and change the way they shop and eat.
The UK agency also said it is working collaboratively with retailers, manufacturers and catering companies to ensure consumers have access to a wider choice of foods lower in saturated fat.
The public health campaign aims to help cut the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease as a diet high in saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels in the blood which is a risk factor.
The FSA hopes to raise awareness and promote a range of steps to cut down on saturated fat. These include choosing low and lower-fat varieties of spreads and dairy foods such as milk, yoghurts and cheeses as well as checking labels to compare saturated fat content of biscuits, cakes and crisps, which can vary.
The FSA told FoodNavigator: “The Agency is working on two fronts – through the public awareness campaign on reducing saturated fat and working with the food industry to reduce saturated fat in food and offer more healthy options.”
According to the UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF), one of the key drivers for declines in the saturated fat content of products purchased over recent years has been reformulation efforts of its members to meet consumer needs.
But an FDF spokesperson added: “It takes quite a lot of research, time and money to deliver these innovations.
“It will take time to justify the costs as well, particularly if they are working on other reformulations such as taking salt out of products.”
The spokesperson said that changing the recipes of much-loved brands was a “complex task” as it needed to be done without impacting on taste, quality, price or functionality such as shelf-life and texture.
The FDF highlighted data from market researcher TNS Worldpanel which showed that between September 2007 and September 2008, purchases of products containing saturated fat grew by only 0.3 per cent compared to 1.2 per cent the year before.
Purchases across the canned goods, frozen prepared foods, ice-cream and frozen puddings, savoury snacks, and yellow fats and milk categories experienced the biggest declines in saturated fat, equivalent to 5,500 tonnes year-on-year.
The FSA said cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the UK, responsible for one in three deaths.
In the UK, adults eat on average 20 per cent more than the recommended maximum levels of saturated fat.
It is estimated that if people cut their saturated fat intake to government recommendations it could prevent up to 3,500 premature deaths a year, saving the UK economy more than £1bn a year in related costs.
The FSA campaign, primarily targeting mums and women aged 45-60, includes TV and press ads, posters and digital marketing.
Campaign supporters include Asda, Tesco, Mysupermarket, Alpro Soya, Arla Foods, Dairy Crest, Heinz, Kraft, McCain, Pepsico, Robert Wiseman Dairies, Unilever and United Biscuits.