Speaking at the headquarters of think tank Demos yesterday (January 15), Burnham pledged if Labour won the forthcoming general election it would set mandatory levels for such ingredients in foods marketed at children.
But Barbara Gallani, FDF director of regulation, science and health, said: In our commitment to explore potential solutions in public health, we are open to assessing the feasibility and likely impact of different approaches to reformulation as part of our on-going work in this area.
“However, in this assessment, the risks of introducing any unworkable limits which could jeopardise the quality of some of the UK’s world-renowned foods without delivering a consumer benefit must be acknowledged.”
She pointed out that reformulation was a complex business, which also affected aspects such as taste, texture and shelf-life.
“The challenges involved in introducing nutrient reduction targets for children’s foods would be many – not least because most household foods are created for families rather than specifically for children, and subject to existing reformulation programmes,” she added.
Gallani agreed with Burnham’s pledge to provide clearer food and drink labelling, stressing that manufacturers had been working on that issue for many years. “In addition to this information, education on appropriate portion sizes and frequency of consumption is needed to help individuals to make informed, healthy choices that are right for them and their families,” she said.
Andrew Opie, British Retail Consortium director of food and sustainability, said retailers were also committed to such things: “UK retailers are already committed to the suggested front of pack labelling and have led the way over a number of years to remove fats, sugars and salts from their products.”
He said they recognised the need for clearer labelling and portion control “to help parents make healthier choices”.
She also supported Burnham’s focus on encouraging physical activity, believing it addressed an imbalanced concentration on fat, salt and sugar.
”The recent focus on certain nutrients has been at the expense of the simple message of promoting a balanced diet within the context of a healthy lifestyle, so we welcome Labour's decision to place the promotion of physical activity at the centre of its public health policy.
“This approach echoes calls this week from the National Obesity Forum for more to be done to encourage adults and children to take advantage of the opportunities to fit exercise into their everyday lives.”
Opie stressed that all future food policy should be evidence-based.
For an overview of Burnham’s comments, click here.