There’s more to healthy eating than reformulation

By Jess Halliday in London

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Pressure to improve the healthy profile of foods focuses too much on the micro and not enough on macro factors that are affecting consumers eating habits, according to food business leaders.

At the Food Manufacture Business Leaders round table in London yesterday, participants discussed the continuing calls from the Food Standards Agency to cut levels of salt, saturated fat and sugar in food products.

Considerable efforts have been made towards the FSA’s voluntary targets for reducing salt and, more recently, saturated fat in certain foods. A hand-poll of participants indicated that work is still ongoing.

But Paul Berryman, chief exectutive of Leatherhead Food Research, said if pressure to reduce saturated fat and salt is taken too far, the result will be “cardboard-tasting synthetic foods”.

Others shared Berryman’s concern.

Leyla Edwards, managing director of KK Fine Foods, a company that makes ready meals for pubs, said: “People go to the pub to eat and enjoy. It has to be tasty.”​ She added that her company is reducing the salt and saturated fat levels in its products.

Similarly John Gibson, chairman of Polestar Foods, recounted efforts to make a low fat yoghurt, which proved unpopular – as sales soared of a full fat version made by a rival at the same time.

“Consumer decides what is important, and what is a good taste.”

Real message

When it comes to improving consumers’ eating habits, “the real take home message us a health diet and eating a bit less,” ​said Berryman.

However some of the participants felt that the FSA’s focus on reducing levels of certain nutrients because the macro aspects – like getting consumers to take more responsibility for eating healthily – is too hard to tackle.

Reducing the volume

Berryman said one of the big problems is the sheer quantity of food people are eating. Some reseach is investigating ways to aerate some kinds of food, so the volume of food is the same.

Similar approaches are being taken in thepet food sector, said Paul Miley, managing director of Burgess Pet Care. Even though packs give portion size by weight, the biggest health problem affecting domestic animals in Europe today is obesity. It seems owners are feeding their pets by volume, so Burgess Pet Care is looking at ways to bulk out the volume while keeping the nutrient content the same.

The Business Leaders round table was held in the offices of Eversheds law firm, and was sponsored by Eversheds, insurance brokers Jardine Lloyd Thompson, and TMB Consulting.

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