Food industry producing healthier products

The UK food and drink industry has released figures highlighting the improved nutrition profiles of many of its products but it still has a long way to go, according to its critics. A 2004 Food and Drink Federation (FDF) manifesto set out a series of commitments it said it is meeting, ranging from reductions in salt, sugar and fat, to portion size control, to advertising to children and better labelling.

The FDF estimated that by the end of this year, 36 per cent of products — worth $13 billion — will have less salt compared to 2004; 15 per cent ($4 billion) will contain less fat; and 10 per cent ($2.5 billion) will have less sugar.

In line with its manifesto pledge of more informative labelling, the FDF noted $60 billion worth of products would have full nutrition information on-pack by the end of 2006, with $26 billion worth of products having salt equivalence information. A similar amount would provide on-pack Guideline Daily Amounts.

Ian Tokelove, spokesman for a UK-based nonprofit better food campaigner The Food Commission, said the changes were a step in the right direction, but would not have occurred without immense government and public pressure. ?It is good to see that the mainstream food industry is facing up to the fact that the foods we eat have a direct effect on the nation?s health,? he said. ?There is, however, a long way to go before many of their products can be deemed healthy.?

Tokelove said many products continued to be flagged up as healthy when they had a poor nutritional profile.

Charlie Powell, a UK campaigner for healthier children?s foods and more responsible marketing of foods to kids, disputed the FDF?s claim to be tightening ?industry codes governing areas such as promotional offers and the use of cartoon characters and celebrities.?

?Little has changed,? Powell said. ?The food industry is still marketing unhealthy foods at children — you only have to look at children?s television to see that.?

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