UK saturated fat proposals have EU wide implications, Caobisco

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Recommendations on saturated fat reductions published by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) in its drive to encourage reformulation of products such as biscuits and cakes along healthier lines will impact Europe wide manufacturers, claim industry representatives.

UK Biscuit and cake manufacturers are under pressure to reduce the saturated fat content in their products by the end of 2012, as a result of proposals published by the FSA following the agency’s consultation period with industry.

But Caobisco, which represents about 2,000 companies in the EU biscuits and confectionery sector, told this publication that as a large amount of biscuit and cakes consumed in the UK are imported, and as its EU wide membership also makes private label products for UK retailers, this initiative will affect manufacturers beyond the UK.

Since publishing its draft recommendations on cutting saturated fat and sugar in food and drink products last year, the FSA said it has received some 58 responses from stakeholders.

Reformulation of products along healthier lines is billed as part of the struggle against obesity, along with increased physical activity and education efforts. But reducing sugar or fat in products presents challenges to manufacturers, as these nutrients can play a role in texture and preservation.


The FSA recommends that plain, sweet and savoury biscuits, and plain cakes should have saturated fat reduced by 10 per cent on 2008 levels by the end of 2012, and for new lines, said the agency, products should contain at least 10 per cent less saturated fat than the nearest equivalent existing product on the market in 2008.

According to the FSA, non-plain biscuits without chocolate, chocolate biscuits and non-plain cakes should have saturated fat reduced by five per cent but chocolate biscuit manufacturers have a longer time frame – end of 2014 – in which to reduce the saturated fat content due to the challenges involved in adjusting levels in chocolate.

The FSA states that in the case of doughnuts and other fried buns, the sector should move to reduced saturated-fat frying oil where possible, and the agency also cautions that reformulation of mainstream products to reduce saturated fat should not result in increased levels of total fat, trans fat or sugar added to the product recipe.

The agency, whose recommendations are voluntary, said it has included additional industry information on costs and the multiple drivers for reformulation.

Feasibility challenged

Caobisco, in its response to the FSA’s draft recommendations last November, said it welcomed the consideration of legislative limitations regarding chocolate products and the understanding of the technical difficulties linked to calorie reductions for all products and it said that the sector wa pleased that some of its comments were taken on board.

However the association said then that the target to achieve a 10 per cent or 5 per cent saturated fat reduction across the product portfolio was not feasible, due to the costs and resources that would be required.

“The recommendations should be less prescriptive and allow for flexibility rather than detailing percentages and grams. It is disappointing that the FSA remains committed to setting targets for individual nutrients, rather than focusing on the need for everyone to achieve a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle,”​ said the industry body.

Product variation

Caobisco also stressed that as every product line is different, saturated fat reduction cannot be expected to be the same across all biscuits, cakes and confectionery currently available on the market.

And it stressed that there is great variation between different types of biscuits, with a large difference in amounts of chocolate coating between economy products and luxury and ‘special occasion’ biscuits.

Moreover, said the industry body, reducing saturated fat using an alternative fat blend can lead to an undesirable softer biscuit texture and in some cases, in order to maintain the biscuit quality and prevent breakages, it may not be possible to reduce salt further.

“Additionally, the recommendations assume that plain biscuits are composed of 100 per cent dough, but this is not always the case - some biscuits include an oilspray, reducing the percentage dough component,”​ added the association.

The FSA said that further recommendations will be forthcoming in the next few months on dairy and meat products, pastry and savoury snacks.

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