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'Saturated Fat Pledge cannot address obesity problem'

FATTY FOODS: Plans are being drawn up to legally limit saturated fat in food (PA)

A LEADING public health expert is calling for more decisive action in the fight against obesity after food manufacturers pledged to cut saturated fat levels.

Morrisons, Subway and Nestle have joined other firms who have signed up to the voluntary "responsibility deal" between industry and government.

But professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said the approach "lacked credibility".

The Depart of Health (DoH) said almost half of the food manufacturing and retail industry has signed up to this latest pledge to reduce the amount of saturated fat in products.

Nestle has announced plans to alter the make-up of KitKat biscuits and Morrisons and Subway is also creating healthier options of their products.

Other firms, which are cutting saturated fat or have pledged to do, so include Tesco, Sainsbury's, Aldi and Mondelez International - which will alter products including its Oreo biscuits.

The DoH said it would "make a huge difference".

It says the average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day, while the average woman should eat no more than 20g.

A survey by supermarket giant Sainsburies found that of 2,000 people polled, 84 per cent did not know how much saturated fat was a healthy amount; and the British Dietetic Association says that most people eat about 20 per cent more than the recommended maximum levels.

Ashton said that while it was "a good thing that some companies are making food that has less saturated fat than before", the pledge did not go far enough.

"They need to ensure that at the same time they lower the sugar and salt that they have used to make foods more tasty as a result of lowering the fat content", he said.

"This announcement is a drop in the ocean in comparison with the scale of the obesity crisis.

"We cannot rely on the voluntary approach of the responsibility deal to solve this problem.

"It now lacks credibility and can be seen as a feeble attempt by the industry to save face."

Labour shadow health minister Luciana Berger said: "A few company names on a non-binding plan with no timescale stands little chance of delivering the fundamental change needed to improve our national diet.

"In the week that the chief medical officer warned of the long-term dangers of childhood obesity, we need to go much further."

She said Labour had put forward "bold ideas to set legal limits on our food's fat, sugar and salt content and achieve a cross-party ambition for a more physically-active nation".

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