FSA launches saturated fat consultation

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

The UK's Food Standards Agency has launched a three-month
consultation on ways to reduce saturated fat in the diet and make
healthy eating easier.

High intakes of saturated fat are known to raise cholesterol levels in the blood, thereby increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the latest Nutrition Diet and Nutrition Survey, men in the UK consume and average of 33g of saturated fat per day and women 23g - around 13.3 per cent of food energy. Reducing this to 11 per cent could avert around 3,500 deaths per year, according to the agency. The consultation will involve building greater awareness of healthy eating and the effects of saturated fat. The agency wants to ensure that healthier alternatives to everyday foods are more widely available - and that consumers are encouraged to chose these. It will also be encouraging manufacturers to make smaller portion sized more widely available and, crucially, to take a long, hard look at what they are putting in their products with a view to improving recipes by reducing the saturated fat. The agency dies acknowledges that efforts have already been made by some food manufacturers and retailers to formulate foods that contain less detrimental elements. For instance, it flags Walkers' 80 per cent reduction of saturated fats across its product range, achieved by replacing standard cooking oil with high oleic sunflower oil; and the launch of Mr Kipling's Delightfuls range, containing 10 to 30 per cent less fat. While reduced fat and calorie foods used to be the preserve of dieters, they are moving more and more into the mainstream. Indeed, this Mr Kipling is working to establish Delightfuls in a position of prominence in its overall range. On the retailer side, Tesco has a product improvement programme to improve the profile of its own brand product, and Asda a set of criteria on fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt to which new products must comply. Sainsbury's is using a front of pack traffic light labelling scheme to flag products that have been redeveloped. According to Julian Hunt, director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), work on reformulation is an ongoing. "FDF's last survey showed that manufacturers had reformulated an impressive £11bn (c €16.2bn) worth of products to have lower levels of salt, fat or sugar compared to the year before. A further £11bn worth of products have been launched with lower salt, fat or sugar variants,"​ he said. During the consultation period, the FSA will be holding meetings with interested parties to discuss ideas on how to achieve its objectives. But this is just the first step - at the end of the three months, the agency has said it will "work with others to develop the programme further".​ Part of a wider drive by the UK government to improve the nation's health and reduce incidence of obesity and cardiovascular disease, the new consultation comes just a week after the launch of the third part of the agency's salt campaign. The FSA has been working with the food industry and health bodies on product reformulation and salt intake reduction since 2004. It says its efforts to date have bourn fruit with a "small but significant"​ reduction in average daily consumption over the last five years - from 9.5g to 9g. The third phase of the initiative, which involves the "Full of it"​ campaign, encourages industry to offer consumers healthier choices and to encourage consumers to drive demand for those healthier choices.

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