The UK’s food watchdog has outlined plans to consult on proposals to bring in voluntary recommendations to cut the levels of saturated fats and added sugar in products.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said today (28 July) that its proposals, which also include the increased availability of “single-portion” sized biscuits, cakes and chocolate, will help consumers “make healthier choices”.

The FSA is also looking to encourage the food industry to spend more marketing money on healthier options.

“We recognise the excellent work already achieved by some food businesses to make healthier eating easier. But to make even greater progress it’s important that everybody gets behind our recommendations on saturated fat, added sugar and portion sizes,” said Gill Fine, director of consumer choice and dietary health at the FSA.

The FSA wants industry to focus first on “sweet foods and treats”. There will be further consultation on dairy, meat products and savoury snacks later in the year, the agency said.

Industry body The Food and Drink Federation said manufacturers had “risen to the challenge” of changing recipes without reducing product quality.

FDF director of communications Julian Hunt cited data from industry analysts Mintel that claim over 700 products have been launched with new recipes since the start of 2007.

“There are very significant technical, financial and consumer challenges that companies have to overcome with every new recipe development, and policy makers need to be realistic about the pace at which our members can be expected to keep delivering new innovations – particularly in the current recession,” Hunt said.

He added: “We are pleased that the FSA has recognised the considerable work undertaken by our members. But we are disappointed that it appears to remain committed to setting arbitrary targets for specific nutrients in certain foods, rather than focusing on the need for everyone to achieve a balanced diet and lifestyle.”