ALMOST half of the food manufacturing and retail firms in the UK have signed up to a pledge to reduce the amount of saturated fat in their products.
A number of companies, including Sainsbury’s, have pledged to change their recipes to reduce saturated fat levels, health officials announced yesterday.
Nestlé has promised to change the recipe of its Kit Kat chocolate bar, Mondelez International is to “reformulate products across its portfolio” including Oreos, and a number of supermarkets including Tesco and Morrisons will also reduce saturated fat in a number of products, a Department of Health spokeswoman said.
If the UK could cut the amount of saturated fat it eats by 15 per cent, around 2,600 premature deaths from heart disease could be prevented every year, she added.
The pledge is part of the government’s “Responsibility Deal” with the food industry which aims to curb the rising tide of obesity across the country by encouraging producers and retailers to reduce artificial trans fats, calories and salt in foods and set up consistent front-of-pack food labelling.
It comes as a poll suggests the vast majority of adults have no idea how much saturated fat they should eat every day.
Eighty four per cent of adults do not know that men should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat each day and women should eat no more than 20g, the survey found.
The poll, conducted by supermarket Sainsbury’s, also found that one in five adults think that all types of fat are bad for one’s health.
And 66 per cent of the 2,000 UK adults surveyed admitted that they were confused by different types of fat.
Tam Fry, trustee of the National Obesity Forum, said that UK ministers must consider proper regulation instead of working with industry on a voluntary basis.
“It is a small step in the right direction but it is only a small step,” he said.
“This latest piece of hype from the Department of Health will still mean over 50 per cent of food will still have extreme levels of saturated fat.
“The much-vaunted voluntary Responsibility Deal will never succeed until the government takes a grip and makes everybody sign up to it.”
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: “One in six male deaths and one in nine female deaths are from coronary heart disease – this is why it’s critical that we challenge the way we eat and that we all make changes where we can.
“It’s hugely encouraging that companies providing almost half of the food available on the UK market have committed to this new Responsibility Deal pledge and they are leading the way to give their customers healthier products and lower-fat alternatives.”
Earlier last week, one of the UK’s leading cardiologists said eating saturated fat can actually be good for you and can help protect against heart disease.
Dr Aseem Malhotra called for a radical shift in the current advice to cut down on saturated fat levels in our diets, saying it can “paradoxically increase” the risk of heart disease.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, Malhotra, a cardiology specialist registrar at Croydon University Hospital in London, said saturated fat has been “demonised” for decades as a major cause of cardiovascular disease.
But there is little scientific evidence to suggest such a link, he said, and suggested that an increase in sugar and carbohydrate intake had been overlooked as a cause.
Responding to the saturated fat pledge announcement, he said: “We know that saturated fat from non-processed foods is not harmful and has some nutritional benefit.
“Added sugar represents the greatest threat to our health, driving cardiovascular disease obesity and type 2 diabetes.
“Removing saturated fat and replacing it with sugar and marketing it as low fat is misleading the public.”
Labour public health spokeswoman Luciana Berger said: “This Tory-led government have completely lost their way on public health and their voluntary approach to tackling Britain’s obesity epidemic is failing.
“A few company names on a non-binding plan with no timescale stands little chance of delivering the fundamental change needed to improve our national diet. More than 40 organisations have already quit the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal since it launched, including the Faculty of Public Health.
“In the week that the chief medical officer warned of the long-term dangers of childhood obesity, we need to go much further. That’s why Labour has put forward bold ideas to set legal limits on our food’s fat, sugar and salt content and achieve a cross-party ambition for a more physically active nation.”