Action to reduce salt, fat and sugars published

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Food businesses have been making progress to reduce salt, fat and sugar from their products
Food businesses have been making progress to reduce salt, fat and sugar from their products

Related tags Public health Nutrition

More than 390 food businesses have published reports on their actions to meet the Public Health Responsibility Deal, the Department of Health (DH) has announced.

The voluntary deal, which was launched in March 2011 and has since gathered 670 industry partners, was set up to reduce the amount of fat, salt, sugar, alcohol and calories in foods.

Headline statistics from a summarised report included Tesco’s claim that it had removed one billion calories from its own-label juices, following a similar reduction in its own-label soft drinks in 2012.

Tesco also announced it would ditch the sale of sweets and chocolates from so called “guilty checkouts”​ by the end of this year, in a bid to steer consumers away from temptation.

‘Tempted by sugary snacks’

“We all know how easy it is to be tempted by sugary snacks at the checkout, and we want to help customers lead healthier lives,” ​Philip Clarke, Tesco’s chief executive said earlier this month.

“We’ve already removed billions of calories from our soft drinks, sandwiches and ready meal ranges by changing the recipes to reduce their sugar, salt and fat content,” ​said Clarke. “And we will continue to look for opportunities to take out more.”

Drinks manufacturer Britvic announced it would stop selling full-sugar Fruit Shoots in Britain, which would remove 2.2bn calories from the children’s drinks market.

Mondelēz International said it would remove its single-serve confectionery of over 250 calories from the UK market by the end of 2015, following a similar move by rival Mars in 2012.

The DH praised the work carried out by UK food businesses to reduce the amount of calories, salt, sugars and fats in products.

“From reducing calories in meals and drinks, reformulating foods to reduce salt content and putting clearer labelling on products, good progress is being made across the board,” ​it said.

Detrimental to quality

Yet, in a previous interview with, Grain D’Or bakery manager Simon Sloan​ said manufacturers of baked goods were reaching a point where pressure to cut salts, fats and sugars in products were becoming detrimental to quality.

“Whenever these targets are talked about or the targets are changed, everybody starts talking about the fact that we’re near the cusp of where quality is badly affected,” ​said Sloan.

“Probably in our case, when it comes to salt reduction, we are on that cusp.”

Another area where big progress has been made is in alcohol. More than 253M units have been removed from the market, in part by reformulation in 2012, said the DH.

The alcohol industry plans to remove one billion units of alcohol from the market by 2015, with major companies such as Diageo and Carlsberg at the forefront, having reduced units in current products or launched new products with fewer units.

‘Making real progress’

Jane Ellison, public health minister, said: “These returns show that by working in partnership with industry, we are making real progress towards getting the nation into healthy habits for life.

“We cannot credibly tackle the major public health changes that our country faces without engaging with the companies that play such a big part in people’s lives and it is vital that momentum is maintained,” ​said Ellison.

“Whilst it is very encouraging to see so many companies getting behind the Responsibility Deal, we know there remains more to be done​.”

Meanwhile, the Food Manufacture Group has teamed up with the Institute of Food Science and Technology to stage an online seminar – Obesity and health: the big fat, sugar and salt debate – at 11am GMT on Thursday July 3. Reserve your free place at the one-hour webinar here​.

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