Retailers set to reduce saturated fat content in foods

Leading food retailers have pledged to reduce saturated fat in their products. Health Reporter Helen Rae investigates the impact on reducing obesity levels

Edward Smith/PA Wire The vast majority of adults have no idea how much saturated fat they should eat every day
The vast majority of adults have no idea how much saturated fat they should eat every day

The vast majority of adults have no idea how much saturated fat they should eat every day to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, a new poll suggests.

As many as 84% of adults do not know that men should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat each day and women should eat no more than 20g, the survey found.

The poll, conducted by supermarket Sainsbury’s, also found that one in five adults think that all types of fat are bad for health.

And 66% of the 2,000 UK adults surveyed admitted that they were confused by different types of fat.

The news comes as health officials recently announced that almost half of the food manufacturing and retail industry in the UK have signed up to a pledge to reduce the amount of saturated food in their products.

A number of companies, including Sainsbury’s, have pledged to change their recipes to reduce saturated fat levels in the foods that they sell.

Last night, health experts in the North East welcomed the changes to ensure that foods sold were as healthy as possible to help curb rising obesity levels in adults and children.

Matty Starforth, sport, health and fitness specialist at Newcastle City Council, said: “It does not surprise me that the majority of adults do not know how much saturated fat they should eat.

“It is key that people do know and understand the importance of what to eat and are able to easily understand what’s the right kind of fat and what’s the wrong kind.

“At the moment the ‘traffic light’ system used to show consumers the nutritional value of food is complicating as there is not a universal system used.

“For example, different shades of colours are used by different retailers and there needs to be consistency as it would be less confusing for people to understand.”

Yet Matty insists that things have improved and changes to food labelling is moving in the right direction so that consumers know what fat they are eating.

“Positive changes have been made to food labelling,” he said. “There are certain companies who now highlight the calories and fat content of their foods in cafes and restaurants.

“Obesity is a big problem as it can lead to a number of health complications, such as type 2 diabetes and heart conditions, so it’s important that people are well informed.

“If people know what they’re eating then they can choose the type of foods that are better for them.”

Why Weight? is a Newcastle-based programme, run by the city council, and delivered by qualified, experienced health and fitness professionals to help overweight people get fit and healthy. The adult scheme comprises of twice weekly exercise sessions, nutritional advice and lifestyle education.

For Billy Barker, 72, of West Denton, Newcastle, the Why Weight? scheme has helped him transform his life for the better.

Since the retired roofer’s wife, Margaret, died 12 years ago, at the age of just 58, Billy’s weight gradually increased until he topped the scales at 14st 7lbs.

Now, after just 10 weeks, the great-grandfather-of-two has lost more than one stone in weight and is already reaping the health benefits.

He said: “I don’t think that people know enough about saturated fat. I used to be a big eater and would eat whatever I wanted to, without even thinking about the fat content.

“I used to be lazy and did very little exercise, so my weight just gradually crept up over the years.

“The Why Weight? programme has totally re-educated me about what food to eat and the importance of keeping an eye on how much saturated fat I’m taking.

“Since I’ve lost the weight I feel so much better and I’m much happier as I eat a lot better and exercise about five hours a week.”

Saturated fat is found in many products, like butter, cakes, pies, fatty meats, cheese and cream.

Eating a diet high in saturated fat can lead to significant weight gain and health problems. In particular, it can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Nestle has promised to change the recipe of its Kit Kat chocolate bar, Mondelez International is to “reformulate products across its portfolio” including Oreos and a number of supermarkets including Tesco and Morrisons will also reduce saturated fat from a number of products, a Department of Health spokeswoman said.

If the nation could cut the amount of saturated fat it eats by 15% around 2,600 premature deaths from heart diseases could be prevented every year, she added.

The pledge is part of the Government’s “Responsibility Deal” with the food industry which aims to curb the rising tide of obesity across the country by encouraging producers and retailers to reduce artificial trans fat, calories and salt in foods and set up consistent front of pack food labelling.

But Tam Fry, trustee of the National Obesity Forum, said that ministers must consider proper regulation instead of working with industry on a voluntary basis.

“It is a small step in the right direction but it is only a small step,” he said.

“This latest piece of hype from the Department of Health will still mean over 50% of food will still have extreme levels of saturated fat.

“The much vaunted voluntary Responsibility Deal will never succeed until the Government takes a grip and makes everybody sign up to it.”

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: “One in six male deaths and one in nine female deaths are from coronary heart disease - this is why it’s critical that we challenge the way we eat and that we all make changes where we can.

“It’s hugely encouraging that companies providing almost half of the food available on the UK market have committed to this new Responsibility Deal pledge and they are leading the way to give their customers healthier products and lower fat alternatives.”

More than two years ago, The Journal joined forces with Nova International to launch our Great North Fitness Revolution.

The campaign is challenging everyone to make a pledge to get active and make the positive changes that will lead to a better quality of life.

From training for the Great North Run, to something as simple as increasing the number of steps you walk each day – everyone can get involved.

The Great North Fitness Revolution received the backing of a host of famous faces, including TV presenter Ben Shephard, Olympic boxer Tony Jeffries, athlete Steve Cram and former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn.

Why Weight? is for adults who live in Newcastle, or who are registered with a Newcastle GP. The scheme accepts self referrals from people who meet the criteria, as well as those referred by health professionals. For more information visit www.activenewcastle.co.uk/health/why-weight/

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