Dubbed the Collaboration Plan, the voluntary commitment was launched yesterday by the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality and the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB).
To be rolled out over the next two years, the plan covers a basket of food and drink products whose added sugar content contributes to 44.5% of the total energy of a Spanish family, the Ministry said.
A total of 511 firms have signed up, including manufacturers, retailers and caterers to public schools and hospitals.
Speaking yesterday at the launch, health minister Dolors Montserrat said called the plan "pioneering".
“The promotion of the Spanish people’s health is our priority hence the importance of this plan, which represents a great leap, not only in the improvement of products we consume at home, but also in the menus we eat outside or our children in the school canteen.”
Fifteen food groups
The pledge will cover 15 food groups.
Manufacturers of prepared dishes, such as surimi, nuggets, lasagne and croquettes will reduce salt and saturated fat by 10% each while dairy products, such as flavoured yoghurts, dairy-based desserts and milkshakes said they would cut sugar by up to 10%.Salted snacks such as crisps and microwave popcorn will cut salt by up to 13.8% and saturated fat by 10%.
Manufacturers of biscuits, baby rusks and cream-filled biscuits were less ambitious, promising a 5% reduction in both saturated fat and added sugar.
Condiments such as tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and salsa will see sugar reductions of up to 18% and 16% of salt.
“Reformulation or improvement in the nutritional composition of the products is one of the most effective interventions to favour a better food environment and more options healthy, to achieve the objectives or nutritional recommendations in the diet and achieve improvements in public health,” reads the full report (in Spanish).
Caterers to hospital and school cafeterias will increase the use of lean meats over other cuts, reduce the amount of pre-cooked and fried foods while using more pulses, fish and seasonal fruit and vegetables.
Suppliers to catering establishments will reduce the amount of salt in single-serving sachets by one third and sachets of sugar by half.
Vending machine stockists promised to purchase only reformulated products, to increase the supply of ‘balanced foods’ from 30 to 50% and reduce the amount of added sugar in hot machines by 15%.
‘A business transformation’
Montserrat thanked the food companies that joined the government’s “call to action”.
“This plan marks a ‘before and after’ in Spain. It is a transformation, not only social but a business transformation, because the companies that join will invest in constant innovation to achieve healthier products," she said.
This innovation is necessary to ensure manufacturers can reduce or remove salt, sugar and fat in products without jeopardising food safety, taste or texture, the ministry said.
A statement issued by FIAB said: “It must also be borne in mind that not all products can be reformulated due to technological, legal and food safety issues, as well as the conditioning factors in terms of their own characteristics and organoleptic properties. Also, many sectors have been reducing the content of these nutrients for some time.”
"The initiative responds to the will of a responsible industry, pending of consumers, who works and makes great efforts for years to improve the composition of their products from the self-regulation of the sector," said FIAB president Tomás Pascual Gómez-Cuétara.
"Especially during the last decade, Spanish food and beverage manufacturers have made considerable progress in this field, such as the reduction achieved in the content of sugar, salt and trans fatty acids of industrial origin in food in Spain" he added.