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Spend more to market healthy foods, says FSA

By Jess Halliday , 29-Jul-2009

The UK’s Food Standards Agency has published tough draft recommendations for reducing saturated fat content and portion sizes in sweet baked goods, chocolate and beverages – as well as an increase in marketing spend on healthier products.

The Saturated Fat and Energy Intake programme (SFEI) was launched in February 2008, as part of a bid to tackle cardiovascular disease and obesity. Its aims are to encourage uptake of healthier options, make smaller portions available, encourage voluntary reformulation, and improve consumer awareness.

Following a consumer awareness campaign, the programme has now entered a new phase – geared towards industry. Stakeholders have the chance to comment on the draft recommendations until November. The final guidelines are expected to be made by the end of this year.

Budgets, pack size and sat fat

One part of the proposals is that all businesses should increase the proportion of their marketing budgets allocated to promoting reduced, low or no fat and sugar products. It does not say what the spend should be, but at this stage is seeking info on current budget spend and plans.

For beverages, the FSA says carbonated, dilutable, still and juice drinks with 8g of total sugar per 100ml should reduce the calorie content from added sugar by at least 4 per cent by 2012. By 2015, it would like single-portion packs of 250ml or less to be more readily available.

When it comes to chocolate, the proposal is manufacturers to make single portion packs of 40g or less of bloc chocolate more available; and chocolate confectionery in single packs of 50g or less. (Major brands Mars and Twix both currently weigh in at 58g).

For bakery products such as biscuits, cakes, pastries and buns, the recommendations revolve around reducing saturated fat levels.

Plain, sweet and savoury biscuits, and cakes and pasties should have their saturated fat levels reduced by 10 per cent on 2008 levels by 2010; and non-plain biscuits by five per cent.

Doughnuts and other fried bun should switch to non-saturated fat frying oils where possible.

Next steps

The proposals are the first wave of recommendations, covering some of the best selling products by food firms. A second set of draft recommendations for dairy, meat and savoury snack products, will be published later this year.

Disappointed

The Food and Drink Federation expressed disappointment that the FSA “appears to remain committed to setting arbitrary targets fro specific nutrients in certain foods, rather than focusing on the need for everyone to achieve a balanced diet and lifestyle”.

Julian Hunt, communications director, also highlighted strides made so far – but emphasised the need to be realistic about what is achievable and affordable.

“There are very significant technical, financial and consumer challenges that companies have to overcome with every new recipe development, and policy makers need to be realistic about the pace at which our members can be expected to keep delivering new innovations, especially in the current recession.”

The changes – billed as voluntary – are expected to cost the industry £12.7m for the reformulation of 13,238 stock keeping units from 444 manufacturers.

The FSA’s full draft document is available here. http://www.food.gov.uk/consultations/ukwideconsults/2009/saturatedfat

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