UK food makers have voiced dissatisfaction over proposals to keep a protein cap in guidelines that determine which foods are advertised during children’s TV programmes.

A panel has been reviewing the “nutrient profiling” model that is used to clear which foods can be promoted during programmes most watched by children.

The panel had been asked to consider a number of issues, including whether a protein cap, which is included in the model to mitigate against processed foods high in fat, salt or sugar being classified as ‘healthier’ by virtue of their protein content, was warranted.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has recommended to its board that the cap stays in place. The board is due to meet next week and Julian Hunt, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) director of communications, said he was “baffled” by the FSA’s recommendation to the board.

Hunt claimed that the panel had proposed scrapping the protein cap but that “at the last minute” and “without consultation”, the recommendation was overturned.

The panel also concluded that there was “no advantage” to be gained in changing the base of the nutrient profiling model from ‘per 100g’ to ‘per portion’.

A spokesperson for the FDF told just-food that, as far as the organisation was aware, the panel had made the decision to remove the protein cap.

“That is what we were aware of as of today, but they have obviously taken separate advice from a review by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which we haven’t seen. We haven’t been consulted on this and it seems like they’ve changed their minds. It has really come out of the blue for us.”

The spokesperson added that the FDF always thought the nutrient profile was based on “poor science” and it still abides by that.

“A lot of products are deemed unhealthy that you’d never sell as 100g anyway. So by agreeing to remove the protein cap, the review panel was at least giving manufacturers the chance to reformulate their products to make them seem healthier,” the spokesperson said.

“It was encouraging new product development and encouraging companies to say, ‘hang on a minute, yeah I will look to reformulate more of my products’, so that they could essentially fit in with the Ofcom model. But that has been taken away now. What incentives does it give us now?”

When contacted by just-food, the FSA said that there had “definitely” been consultation with the FDF throughout the review process.