The UK's Food Standards Agency has called on food manufacturers to make smaller portion sizes and reduced fat alternatives more readily available in a bid to improve the nation's diet.

The agency wants the food industry to make it easier for people to live healthier lifestyles and consume less saturated fat. The FSA has begun a consultation process that it hopes will draw health campaigners, government and industry into the debate.

Calling for responses, Gill Fine, director of nutrition and dietary health at the FSA, said: "Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in the UK and poor diet is thought to be responsible for a third of these deaths. Many leading food manufacturers and retailers have already taken action to provide healthier food choices for consumers. Over the past three years we have seen reductions in the levels of salt as well as lower-fat ranges of products. We are keen to find out what more could be done to make it easier for consumers to take action to improve their diets."

The FSA is seeking views on the following areas: improving consumer awareness of healthy eating issues, encouraging manufacturers to offer smaller portion sizes and reduced fat varieties, and encouraging the food industry to reduce the level of saturated fat in everyday recipes.

Responding to the FSA's comments, Food and Drink Federation communications director Julian Hunt, said: "We are proud of the fact that our members are leading the world when it comes to product reformulation, extending consumer choice and better labelling. FDF's last survey showed that manufacturers had reformulated an impressive GBP11bn worth of products to have lower levels of salt, fat or sugar compared to the year before. A further GBP11bn worth of products have been launched with lower salt, fat or sugar variants. We know that the work on reformulation continues."

The FDF represents leading UK food and drink manufacturers.