The Food Standards Agency (FSA) kicked off phase one of its campaign last February, which included a graphic TV advert on the effects of excess consumption on health. It followed up with some draft recommendations for the food industry, which suggested reductions that makers of certain food categories (first baked goods then savoury snacks) should strive for. Recommendations for other food categories will follow.
Today the agency has renewed its consumer-facing campaign with the publication of survey data indicating that consumers of semi-skimmed milk, with around 2 per cent fat, may be quite willing to switch to 1 per cent milk instead. and not taste the difference It has also launched a mobile phone application, and a 21-day campaign in cooperation with The Sun newspaper.
Heart surgeon Shyam Kolvekar of University College Hospital has added his voice to the clamour for lower saturated fat consumption. He reports seeing patients in their early 30s who need heart surgery because of their diet.
In an article in the Daily Mail, he is quoted as promoting low fat spreads in place of butter, and people to eat less red meat, take low-fat milk and switch to olive and sunflower oil. Kolvekar's comments were circulated by the same public relations agency that represents Unilever's low fat spread products, but the agency says there is no financial connection.
Meanwhile, Professor Alan Maryon-Davis of UK Faculty of Public Health has sounded a warning on trans fats, a form of unsaturated fat produced when liquid vegetable oils are turned into solid fats through the process of hydrogenation. He is calling for a total ban, as has already happened in some US states and Denmark, Switzerland and Austria.
“Trans fats are much less well known than saturated fats but are much more damaging. They contribute to a large number of the excess coronary deaths we have in this country,” he is reported as saying in The Guardian newspaper.
In late 2007 the FSA gave its scientific opinion that there was no need to ban trans fats: voluntary action would suffice.
The FSA’s saturated fat and energy intake programme aims to reduce population intake of saturated fat to no more than 11 per cent of energy intake for everyone over the age of 5.
Current average consumption is around 20 per cent higher.