The spat broke out last week after Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, chair of AoS and Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), wrote to all major food manufacturers in May asking for their perspective on the fairest approach to reformulation.
The FDF told its members that any discussions about nutrient targets should be had with Public Health England and the Department of Health and not CASH/Action on Sugar or non-government organisations.
‘Trying to dictate to us’
However, the FDF guidance was slammed by MacGregor who said: “This is typical of the mentality of the FDF, trying to dictate to us and to the industry what we can and can’t do in trying to tackle Britain’s escalating obesity crisis and is a clear attempt at preventing NGOs [non governmental organisations] and the food industry to communicate and express their views openly.
“The FDF is clearly trying to do everything in its power to stop a coherent plan for sugar and fat reduction, just as they previously rigorously opposed any attempt of salt reduction.
“Despite this, the branded food industry did reduce the amount of salt added to their food. It was only then that the FDF congratulated itself for all of the good work they had done to encourage salt reduction.
“Quite frankly, in my view, they are an antediluvian organisation which only represents a few of the worst branded companies in the UK.”
It also accused the FDF of trying to dilute the strategy and said it was vital that Prime Minister David Cameron should listen to individual companies, which had far more current information that the FDF.
‘FDF works constructively’
In response, Tim Rycroft, corporate affairs director at the FDF, said: “FDF works constructively with a host of different health stakeholders, creating and supporting forums for discussion and opportunities for partnership. For instance, we are in talks with CASH/ AoS about a roundtable with our members.
“Members being bombarded with time consuming requests for information asked us if they had to respond to CASH. As the guidance makes clear we did not ‘warn’ members not to communicate as is claimed.
“We advised that their tight resource would be best spent engaging with government on technical discussions around product change. It would be a big burden on companies for them to discuss their plans with all of their stakeholders. Companies will, of course, make their own decisions about who they speak to.”
AoS said it had also appealed to Cameron this week asking for clarification as to when the long overdue Childhood Obesity Strategy would be announced.
Food and Drink Federation advice to members
“We are aware that many of you have received a letter from Prof. MacGregor asking your views on targets. As an industry we have already made our position clear in numerous public fora. We believe that any detailed discussions about government nutrient targets, what is appropriate and the mechanism by which they are set, should be had with Public Health England (PHE) and Department of Health and not CASH/Action on Sugar, or indeed any NGOs.
“We are, therefore, intending to write to Prof. MacGregor expressing this view and we will not be providing answers to the detailed questions asked within the letter. Of course, if you decide to respond to the letter and do want to provide more detail and feel we can help you with the cross-industry position then please do not hesitate to contact [the FDF]”.