Food firms should cut saturated fat levels and reduce portion sizes to help improve the nation’s health, a watchdog has said.
The measures are part of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) drive to reduce consumption of saturated fat, which is linked to killer heart disease.
Meat products, cakes, biscuits and crisps are the among the food types in need of an ingredients overhaul, the watchdog said.
Food manufacturers should also reduce added sugar levels and increase their range of healthier product options, according to the FSA.
A group of leading academics will meet in the spring to look at whether specific portion size recommendations are feasible for fatty, high-calorie processed foods.
The FSA will work with the food industry on ways to make smaller portion sizes more readily available.
It will also look into standardising portion sizes for pre-packed products such as snacks, confectionery, ready meals and sugary soft drinks.
The watchdog wants to reduce average saturated fat intakes from the current level of 13.3% of food energy to below 11% by 2010 for people over five years old.
Unveiling the Saturated Fat and Energy Intake Programme, FSA Head of Nutrition Science Dr Alison Tedstone said people were eating on average 20% more saturated fat than they should.
We all eat too much saturated fat
Dr Alison TedstoneFSA Head of Nutrition
‘We all eat too much saturated fat, as a broad statement. The whole population as things stand are eating too much saturated fat,’ she said.
Other foods classed as key contributors of saturated fat, added sugar and calories to people’s diets include dairy products, fat spreads, confectionery and soft drinks.
The FSA will launch a public awareness campaign about saturated fat later this year.
It says reducing average intakes to below the recommended maximum could help prevent up to 3,500 deaths per year.
Crisps and ready meals
Some food firms have already voluntarily cut saturated fat levels in products such as crisps and ready meals.
But more processed foods need to be reformulated to improve consumers’ health, the FSA said.
The food industry has warned it will be difficult to cut saturated fat levels in products which need it to give them a certain texture – such as pastry and biscuits – or to prolong their shelf life.
Julian Hunt, director of communications at the Food and Drink Federation which represents manufacturers, said the UK food industry had already removed nearly 30,000 tonnes of saturated fats from products since 2005.
Which? food campaigner Miranda Watson warned: ‘While it’s great to see that the FSA is committed to reducing the amount of saturated fat and sugar in our food, it’s hard to see how significant progress can be made without setting specific, binding targets.’
©The Press Association, All Rights Reserved