The Food Standards Agency has handed over the final nutrient profiling model, to be used when looking at advertising of food to children, to the communications regulator Ofcom.

The model provides a tool for categorising foods on the basis of their nutrient content, the agency said. It has been developed to help rebalance children’s diets by supporting Ofcom in its work of reducing the amount of advertising directed at children for foods high in saturated fat, sugar or salt.

The model’s development was overseen by an expert working group including independent nutritionists and dieticians, members of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition and representatives from industry and consumer groups.

“This technical model, which has been overseen by scientific experts, provides a systematic basis for categorising food,” said Deirdre Hutton, chair of the Food Standards Agency. “We know that children’s diets are too high in saturated fat, sugar and salt and we want to redress the current imbalance of food advertising to children. We are confident that this model provides a sound and robust basis for Ofcom to use in its work.”

“The nutrient profiling model developed by the Food Standards Agency will give Ofcom a framework to consult with the broadcasting and advertising sectors to help achieve that balance and make sure we can all work together to see better diets and healthier children,” said minister for public health Caroline Flint. “It’s important we get the balance right between protecting children from eating too many high fat, sugar and salt foods and the promotion of healthy foods.”

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“The public health white paper made the case for action to restrict further the advertising and promotion to children of foods high in fat, salt and sugar. Broadcast advertising has its part to play in that and I welcome the FSA’s model as providing the basis on which Ofcom can target action,” said James Purnell, broadcasting minister.

“The UK food and drink manufacturing industry has comprehensively rejected all previous versions of this model – designed to meet a political agenda – as being subjective and having no rational scientific basis,” said Martin Paterson, deputy director general of industry body the Food and Drink Federation.

“The changes announced today clearly illustrate this.  The FSA announcement confirms that the final version of the model does not allow any foods which exceed a set threshold for saturated fat, energy, sodium or sugar to score points for the protein they contain unless they meet other artificial criteria.”

“We will be studying the model urgently,” he said. “We do not know what the detailed effects of the latest changes will be and neither, we believe, do the board of the FSA.   FDF has today written to FSA Chair Deirdre Hutton to ask for clarification on this.”