Food manufacturers in Norway have signed a pact with the country’s government that sets “specific targets” for the reduction of sugar, salt and saturated fats in products in a bid to promote “healthier diets”.

Under the terms of the agreement, manufacturers are aiming for the average intake of added sugars per person will be reduced by at least 12.5% by 2021.

Such a reduction would mean added sugars generating “close to 11% of a person’s energy, down from 13% in 2013, a spokesperson for Norway’s health ministry said. 

“The agreement also outlined Norway’s intent to further reduce the average Norwegian intake of added sugar to 10% at an unspecified future date,” the spokesperson added.

On saturated fats, the spokesperson said the aim is to reduce the average intake per person to 13% of energy by 2018, compared to an average intake per person of 14% energy in 2015.

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On salt, the agreement set a goal of an average intake per person of 8g per day by 2021, compared to 10g per day in 2010, falling further to an average intake per person of 7g per day by 2025. The spokesperson said: “The agreement also outlined Norway’s intent to further reduce the average Norwegian intake of salt to 5g per day at an unspecified future date.”

Meanwhile, the agreement aims to continue promoting increases in the consumption of “healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables and fish”, the spokesperson said.

Norway’s health and human services minister Bent Høie said the target on added sugars “means that we are more ambitious” than goals set for the EU.

“The agreement means that Norway is at the forefront of efforts to improve public health,” Høie said. “Unhealthy diet leads to diseases, health problems and years of life lost. These challenges cannot be met in one sector alone. Therefore I am very happy for this cooperation.”

Nordic food group Orkla was among signatories to the agreement. Orkla chairman Stein Erik Hagen said: “We have shown society at large that Norwegian authorities and the Norwegian food industry can join forces to address an important issue.”

Hagen said Orkla “has already made a significant contribution by reducing sugar, salt and saturated fat in its products” toward the promotion of healthier foods.

Orkla nutrition and health manager Anders Högberg told just-food the initiative “will demand significant product development resources, but we think we can achieve it”.

Högberg said: “It is a challenge, but it is also a business opportunity and our responsibility. The main thing for us now is to develop new products – and we have been working towards this for some time. The consumers want this and they want good tasting more nutritious products, so we have to deliver that.”

Other signatories to the agreement included Norwegian meat group Nortura and dairy group Tine, plus overseas companies including Nestle.

Arne Kristian Kolberg, CEO of meat processor Nortura, said the company would continue with its ongoing efforts to promote healthy food products and also work towards developing new products containing less saturated fats.