Date Published: 5 February 2008

FSA unveils first steps of saturated fat and energy intake programme (UK)

Health Food - illustrating an item from the UK Food Standards Agency.

The Food Standards Agency is today unveiling the range of activity it plans to take to help people in the UK reduce the amount of saturated fat they eat.

The diet of the average British adult contains too much saturated fat, added sugar and salt. Since 2004 the Agency has been working with industry to reformulate foods to reduce the amount of salt they contain, along with communicating the health impacts of a high-salt diet directly to consumers. It is now extending that focus to saturated fat and the balance of calories that we need.

Intakes of saturated fat in UK diets are around 20% higher than official Government recommendations. Eating too much saturated fat and a diet consisting of too many calories, compared to the energy we burn off through activity, can be a significant risk factor in developing a range of serious illnesses. Diet-related illnesses can include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers and obesity. It is estimated that cutting our intake to meet Government recommendations could help to prevent up to 3,500 deaths a year.

The programme of activity being published by the FSA today highlights how developing and building on positive and collaborative partnerships with industry, along with consumer awareness activity, could help reduce population intakes of saturated fat from 13.3% to below 11% of food energy.

This planned activity outlines the steps that can be taken to tackle the amount of saturated fat and added sugar to foods, while also taking account of the more complex and technical issues around reformulation. Reducing the amount of saturated fat in some foods presents a more complex challenge than removing salt.

This programme outlines future work in the following areas:

  • building on partnerships with the food industry to:
    • encourage further voluntary reformulation of specific food groups to reduce the amount of saturated fat and added sugar they contain
    • increase the ranges of healthier options and step up the promotion of healthier products to consumers
    • make smaller portion sizes more readily available
    • publish food industry commitments to reformulate
  • increasing consumer awareness activity to raise the profile of saturated fat as part of our overall efforts to encourage people to choose a healthy diet
  • holding an independent academic workshop to examine evidence on portion sizes, chaired by Dr Susan Jebb - Head of Nutrition and Health Research at the Medical Research Council.

The steps outlined in this programme tie in with the Department of Health's Healthy Lives, Healthy Weight, and the Healthy Food Code of Good Practice outlined within the report.

Rosemary Hignett, Head of Nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, said:

" Reducing our intakes of saturated fat is a major challenge but would have clear important health benefits. To help us choose a balanced diet, we need practical information about foods and access to a range of healthier choices.

The Agency is committed to doing what it can to encourage everyone to eat a balanced diet, which includes eating less saturated fat. We aim to work with industry on reducing saturated fat and added sugar levels in foods, reducing portion sizes and providing clear information to consumers, including honest nutrition information on labels. "

The Agency is currently exploring which activities are most effective in improving consumer awareness and therefore helping meet its commitments to reduce saturated fat intakes.

 

Source: Food Standards Agency (FSA), UK.

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