The researchers started work on the project at the end of last month. The work involves interviewing industry representatives, non-governmental organisations and food manufacturers to find out how the industry has responded to salt, fat and sugar targets and how involved manufacturers have been in deciding them. It will also try to find out from manufacturers where they think the line for targets should be drawn "as they can only go so far with reformulating products," said Dr Richard Lee, who is involved in the study and is a research associate at the university.
The study will explore the best methods for reformulation from experimenting with ingredients to trying out new processes and technology. It will also examine which forms of expert advice and knowledge have been utilised. As well as looking at case studies and conducting interviews with manufacturers, researchers will also talk to consumers to find out how concerned they are with salt, fat and sugar intake.
According to Lee, a senior representative of a major food manufacturer recently said: "People eat food, not policies don't annoy the consumer." In Lee's opinion, this illustrates: "That the relationship between policy interventions and the manufacture and retail of food is mediated by different conceptualisations of the consumer."
The study is part of a wider research initiative called Consumer Culture in an Age of Anxiety, otherwise known as Conanx. It is funded by the European Research Council and is a four-year research programme that started last year and will end in 2012. The aim is to investigate consumer anxieties about food, from a global and international perspective to single, domestic-individual households.
Dr Richard Lee will be attending Food Manufacture's Saturated Fat Reduction Round Table on May 6, 2010 at Leatherhead Food Research in Leatherhead, Surrey. The free event will be chaired by Geoff Talbot 'The Fat Consultant' see www.foodmanufacture.co.uk for more details.