Action on Fibre: Working together to bridge the gap
17 February 2022
Since 1992 Government has published 14 obesity strategies, developed reformulation targets for over 100 food and drink categories to reduce calories, sugars, and salt, and launched numerous public health campaigns aimed at reducing the nation’s waistlines. But there has been a noticeable lack of government intervention to help people eat more of one key nutrient – fibre.
With only 9% of adults meeting the dietary recommendation, and data from the Global Burden of Disease which shows that lack of fibre is among one of the highest dietary risk factors, increasing fibre intakes is critical. Collaboration across the food industry, NGO’s, Government and health professionals will be integral to raising the profile of fibre and taking action to help people to increase their intakes.
The Food and Drink Federation - the trade body for food and drink manufacturers – has been working with our members to understand this issue and explore what can be done to help people increase their intakes. Our consumer polling found that only 1 in 3 people know the recommended daily amount for adults is 30g – emphasising the need to raise awareness of the dietary recommendation. In 2015, the government increased the dietary recommendation for fibre from 24g to 30g . However, without a public health campaign to communicate this it is unsurprising that intake of fibre across the UK population has remained far below the recommendation.
Data on consumer attitudes toward fibre shows a great level of misconception. Our polling3 found that although most people were aware of the benefit to bowel health, only 25% of people knew that a diet high in fibre can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. People are unaware of the wide range of benefits associated with a diet high in fibre, such as reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. People also believe that higher fibre options are bland, take more time and effort to prepare and are more expensive .
So, how do we educate and enable consumers to eat more fibre? To do this, all stakeholders have a role to play. Educating consumers about the benefits of eating more fibre would be a helpful starting point. Whilst food and drink manufacturers are constrained to communicate only the approved health claims set within the EC Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, health professionals and government can play an important role in communicating and educating consumers about the wider benefits of a diet high in fibre.
Considering that less than 0.1% of the population are estimated to meet all recommendations in the Eatwell Guide , supporting people with hints and tips to meet these guidelines would be helpful. Research shows that eating five portions of fruit and vegetables and three portions of starchy foods a day would only amount to consuming around 22g of fibre. Achieving the 30g fibre recommendation can therefore be a real challenge, and requires higher fibre options to be an appealing and easy choice for meals and snacks throughout the day.
Food and drink manufacturers can play an important role by helping to ensure higher fibre diets are more appealing, normal and easy for the population. As such in September 2021, the FDF launched Action on Fibre, an industry-led initiative to help consumers bridge the gap between current intakes and the dietary recommendation.
Companies signed up to Action on Fibre have pledged a raft of exciting actions to help bridge the gap. Pledges include using innovation and reformulation to increase the amount of fibre in both new and existing products consumers know and love, along with using marketing and on pack messaging to nudge consumers toward higher fibre options.
Since the launch of the initiative, the FDF have continued to raise the profile of the importance of fibre and industry commitment to bridge the gap through a broad range of activities including the FDF podcast, a Focus on Fibre Webinar, and supporting International Wholegrain Day. We were delighted to round off 2021 with 21 participating member companies and are committed to building this even further throughout 2022.
It is great to see what our members have been doing and we are excited to see their next steps in the coming year. To improve the health of the nation and bridge the fibre gap it is important that all stakeholders work together, ensuring people have the knowledge and skills along with a wide range of food and drink to support a healthy lifestyle.
To find out more about Action on Fibre please visit the Action on Fibre webpage.