The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published draft plans on fat reduction that raise the possibility of legal changes to encourage sales of low fat cheddar and ice cream.
To reduce the quantity of saturated fat in the UK diet, the FSA is presenting industry with a list of recommendations to promote healthier options and reduce the size of fatty snack. For the dairy industry, the agency is focusing on promoting the supply and sale of low fat milk and cheddar.
Low fat targets
It has set ambitious targets for both these categories. Lower fat milks with 1 per cent fat or less currently make up 25 per cent of the market, and the FSA wants to increase that percentage to over 40 per cent by 2012.
The FSA also wants to see an increase in the low fat share of total cheddar market from 10 per cent today to 25 per cent by 2015.
For milk the aim is to capitalise on the historic shift towards lower fat options, and encourage the development of 1 per cent fat milk and skimmed milk. The FSA recommends that businesses should develop their own internal targets to supply, sell and promote the uptake of lower fat milk.
The same recommendation was proposed for reduced fat versions of everyday cheddar style cheeses, but the FSA did acknowledge the existence of a legislative barrier.
The current Food Labelling Regulations 1996 (FLR) do not allow reformulated versions of cheddar that contain less than the specified fat content to be marketed as cheddar cheese. The FSA said: “We are aware of the potential disincentive this is for food companies and that this has the potential to be a source of confusion for consumers.”
It is therefore exploring the potential for an amendment to current legislation to enable low fat options to be marketed as cheddar cheese. The same legislative impediment lies in the way of low fat ice cream, and so the FSA is considering a similar legal change.
Food and Drink Federation (FDF) spokesperson Julian Hunt drew the FSA attention to another legal challenge to its plans. He said: “EU Regulation will make it harder for companies to make nutrition claims from January 2010 – and may prevent them from rising to the FSA’s challenge on marketing.
“Therefore, we are urging the Agency and the Government to do more to lobby Brussels about this Regulation before it is too late.”
The FSA is seeking views from industry and other stakeholders on the proposed recommendations. Responses are required by 9 March 2010. From the dairy industry the Agency is looking for views on potential benefits of changes to current legislation on ice cream and cheddar. It also wants to gather views on the supply and promotion plans in general, and learn about the industry perspective on trends, and the proposed focus on milk and cheddar.