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January 22, 2013

UK: Food industry defends record on health

The Food & Drink Federation has released a report praising achievements by the industry to cut salt, fat and sugar from products, as its Responsibility Deal with government comes under renewed pressure.

The Food & Drink Federation has released a report praising achievements by the industry to cut salt, fat and sugar from products, as its Responsibility Deal with government comes under renewed pressure.

There has been an average 10% cut in salt levels in foods produced by Food & Drink Federation (FDF) members since 2008, said the trade body today (22 January), citing commissioned Kantar data.

The figure is published in the FDF’s Delivering Healthy Growth report, which will be discussed at a conference to be attended by public health minister Anna Soubry later today.

Food producers and retailers have been under fresh pressure in early 2013 to show that they are taking serious steps to cut fat, salt and sugar from foods, as well as to improve healthy options for consumers.

Labour, the UK’s main opposition party, has called for legal limits on sugar, fat and salt in foods marketed to children, based on OECD figures showing that 26.6% of UK girls and 22.7% of boys are considered overweight or obese.

For now, the Conservative-led Coalition Government is opposed to regulation and the Department of Health has said that it is satisfied with progress made under the current Responsibility Deal with industry, a voluntary initiative that encourages firms to sign up to pledges.

Soubry will announce a further eight signatories to the Deal at the FDF conference today, taking the total to 31.

However, salt reduction is currently under review by the Responsibility Deal steering committee, with some products having failed to meet 2012 targets.

Health minister Jeremy Hunt has also warned the industry to do more, albeit without outlining specific goals or detailing the consequences of not doing so.

“We are seeing real, measurable results,” said PepsiCo UK and Ireland president Richard Evans. “UK food and drink manufacturers are acutely aware of their responsibilities – to their customers and employees, and to the environment around them,” said Evans, who also chairs the FDF health and wellbeing group.

Check back for just-food’s coverage from today’s FDF conference

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