UK: "F" is for Fat and Salt Levels in Food

Last Updated: 9 July 2010
Article by Jessica Burt and Dana Coey

New guidance published by the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) suggests that thousands of lives, thus far lost to deadly conditions such as heart disease, could be saved through reduction of saturated fat and salt levels in food.

Research shows that factors such as diet can have a significant impact on preventing and/or combating the risk of heart disease and stroke in a large number of cases (up to 90%). In line with this, the latest NICE report - which is oriented primarily towards food manufacturers - promotes reduction of saturated fat levels in foodstuffs. A particular focus in this respect is reduction of fat levels in certain "high-risk" food products such as ready-made meals and other processed convenience foods, which are often packed with man-made "trans" fats specially aimed at enhancing the product's shelf-life, taste and smell over a lengthy period of time. Research studies show that the negative impact of these fats on human health is startling; indeed, it is so significant that certain European countries and US states have banned their use in food production altogether. Reduction of levels of fat levels in foodstuffs (particularly in respect of unhealthy saturated and trans fats) is therefore seen as a key mechanism lowering the risk of disease. 

In addition, echoing the FSA's prominent salt-reduction programme, which has led to formulation of maximum salt levels for 80 food products and reductions in the salt content of such popular foods as breakfast cereals (44%), biscuits and cakes (16 - 50%), crisps (13%) and cheese (over 30% in the case of some ranges), NICE promotes reduction of salt levels in foodstuffs available on the UK market. The aim in this respect is to achieve a 30% reduction over a 15-year period, from the current level of 6g salt/day for an adult to 3 g salt/day in 2025, which - it is claimed - would help lower the fatality rate by 15 - 20 thousand deaths per year.

As well as introducing proposals for programmes encouraging the public to buy healthy, low salt and low fat food (e.g. a policy relating to sale of low-fat / low-salt products at a lower price that higher-salt and/or -fat alternatives), the NICE guidelines also highlight the importance of labelling and clear and transparent marketing in the choices that consumers make in respect of food. Furthermore, certain more far-reaching proposals are also made, for example in respect of limiting the possibilities for granting planning permission for construction of fast food restaurants. Thus, it is clear that the perspective on the issue of nutrition and disease prevention is becoming much more global and impacts upon a broad range of industries, rather than just the food-and-drink and - ultimately - the healthcare sectors

For the full text of the NICE guidance, please click here.

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to www.law-now.com/law-now/mondaq

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 07/07/2010.

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