Working in partnership

"UK manufacturers and retailers are now leading the field and setting trends which others around the world are following” - Tim Smith, FSA.

Tim Smith is Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency. For more information on its work on reformulation visit www.food.gov.uk.


Tim Smith, FSA CEOAt the Food Standards Agency we recognise the challenge that reducing the amount of salt, saturated fat and added sugar presents to the food industry.

However, reducing the levels of these nutrients in processed foods is vital if we are to provide consumers with healthier choices and tackle the growing tide of diet-related disease.

Working in partnership with food businesses on product reformulation since 2003, we have taken a voluntary approach, establishing constructive working relationships with the retail, manufacturing and catering sectors.

Our approach has been informed by extensive discussions with food and drink producers and their trade bodies to understand the legal, technical and consumer acceptability challenges faced. It allows industry to respond flexibly, encourages innovation and takes account of the different business models, product portfolios, ingredients and processes involved. We encourage businesses to reformulate as part of their usual programme of product review and development.

The benefits of a voluntary approach are clear from the progress made by industry in the complex area of salt reduction. All sectors of the food industry – retailers, manufacturers, trade associations, caterers and their suppliers – have responded positively to, and continue to be engaged with, the Agency's calls to reduce salt in foods.

Salt intakes have so far fallen by 0.9g, which is estimated to prevent around 6,000 premature deaths each year. It is encouraging that action to reduce the average amount of salt we are eating on a daily basis is having a positive impact.

But while the results so far are positive, recent surveys by Which? and Consensus Action on Salt and Health show there is still plenty to do.

Following this success, we are now working in partnership with food businesses to reduce saturated fat, added sugar and consider portion sizes. We know that supermarkets and manufacturers have already made progress in this area so that there is an increasing range of lower saturated fat foods available and we'd like to see more of this. We have again engaged with industry to understand the complex issues involved and develop voluntary recommendations accordingly.

In the last 18 months, we've also seen good progress by the catering sector to improve the nutritional content of food eaten out of the home. So far the Agency has secured commitments from the UK's biggest contract caterers and suppliers and major high street chains.

Many retailers and manufacturers have made real strides in reformulating their products and I would like to pay credit to those who have done this. We know that some have gone further and faster than their peers. We know it can be done and I want to encourage all companies to do more, especially in their most popular products. Some areas of industry have achieved more than many thought possible when we began this groundbreaking work.

By putting consumer health first, and embracing the challenges, UK manufacturers and retailers are now leading the field and setting trends which others around the world are following. It is essential we continue to work together to increase the variety of healthier foods available.

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Last reviewed: 06 Jul 2009