Reformulation

Salt Reduction 2024

Earlier this year, Public health England (PHE) consulted with industry on new salt reduction targets.  Their ambition was set out in the green paper ‘Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s’ with the aim to reduce the population’s salt intakes to 7g per day.  The recommended population average salt intake is 6g per day to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Voluntary salt reduction targets for industry have been around for quite some time with those set in 2014 building on three earlier sets (2006, 2008 and 2011).  The aim was to gradually reduce the levels of salt in the foods that contribute the most salt to our diet.

By 2018, PHE’s progress report showed that 81% of products were meeting the targets for 2017.

The new targets are to be achieved by 2024 and are based on the 2017 targets with revisions made where it is believed there is further scope for salt reduction.  Retailers and manufacturers should ensure their products meet the targets in table 1 and that foods offered for eating out of home such as those from in-store cafes, food on the go and takeaway should meet those in table 2.  Businesses who provide food and meals as part of the eating out, takeaway and delivery sector should ensure the foods they purchase or make meet the relevant targets in both tables.

Some notable changes to table 1 from the previous 2017 salt targets are:

  • The salted butter category now includes flavoured butters and buttery spreads such as garlic butter
  • The ready meal category has a new sub-category for sides and accompaniments e.g. bhajis, onion rings, coated garlic mushrooms
  • Salt and vinegar products category specifically lists popcorn and nuts in addition to crisps and snacks
  • New sub-categories for savoury and sweet popcorn and flavoured nuts
  • All flavours of ketchup and mayonnaise are now included as well as vegan alternatives
  • New sub-categories for chilli sauces, dips and condiments such as horseradish, tartare, seafood and mint sauce.

Table 2 includes targets for 11 food categories based on the 10 most popular food groups purchased in the eating out, takeaway and delivery sector and a specific target for children’s main meals.  These comprise of a ‘dish target’ where the food can be served as a meal on its own e.g. burgers, pies and chips, and a ‘meal target’ where a specific dish includes sides/accompaniment e.g. pasta dish with garlic bread and a side salad.

Businesses are expected to start working towards these new targets whilst also working to reduce levels of sugar and calories.  PHE plans to report on progress in 2022.

AB Food Nutrition works with manufacturers and caterers to provide nutrient composition values of their products for labelling & menu boards and also during product development or reformulation. We can work with you to assess the impact recipe changes will have on nutritional content as well as advising on ways to achieve a desired nutritional profile such as reducing salt, sugar and calories.  Contact Anne for further information about our nutrition and labelling services.

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Why you should choose your fats and oils wisely!

You may be fully aware that different cooking oils have different properties and flavours, for example, those with a higher smoke point like sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil are better for roasting and frying, whereas virgin/cold-pressed oils are better kept for use in salad dressings and for drizzling.

But then, there is the media hype – coconut oil being endorsed by celebrities as the latest ‘superfood’ when in reality it contains more saturated fat than butter or lard! There is in fact very limited evidence for the beneficial health effects of coconut oil which is really driven by marketing and not science!  A small amount of fat in the diet is essential of course, to help us absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, but many of us are consuming too much saturated fat.  Earlier this year the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition published their report on the role of saturated fats and health concluding that the current dietary advice did not need to change – in that saturated fats should not exceed around 10% of total food energy.  Swapping saturated fats with unsaturated fats has been found to lower levels of blood cholesterol which in turn lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke and although we all need to take action, food manufacturers and caterers have a particular responsibility in helping people to do this.

So, what can you, as a food producer do when it comes to choosing your cooking oil?

Swapping to an oil higher in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat will not only help to reduce the overall saturated fat content of your products, but could also save you money as well!

However, fatty acids are sensitive to heat, light and oxygen so treat them with care during storage.  Cooking can also change the chemical structure which not only can produce ‘off flavours’ but leads to the destruction of vitamins and loss of nutritional value. 

And finally, remember – all oils are calorie-dense and should be used sparingly, so it’s also a good idea to look for ways to reduce or replace the amount of fats and oils you use in producing your foods.

AB Food Nutrition works with manufacturers to provide nutrient composition values of their products for labelling or menu boards and also during product development or reformulation. We can work with you to assess the impact recipe changes will have on nutritional content as well as advising on ways to achieve a desired nutritional profile such as reducing saturated fat in addition to advising on which nutrition or health claims you can use in product marketing.  Contact Anne for further information about our nutrition and labelling services.

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Do I need a Nutritionist for recipe analysis?

There is a plethora of software options and subscriptions available for businesses to calculate the nutrient contents of their recipes – but as with anything, the accuracy of the data output is only going to be as good as the information going in!

I first wrote about this in 2016 and the importance of using professionally trained experts, but in recent months it has become apparent when talking with several food business owners, that small/medium sized operators are increasingly starting to calculate their nutrition information themselves.  With this in mind, now seemed a good time to revisit and discuss the benefits & pitfalls of calculating the nutrition contents of foods and drinks.

AB Food Nutrition has many years of experience calculating the nutrient composition of recipes for labels, menu boards and magazines. Using your product recipe we can take the hassle out of nutrition labelling compliance whilst providing an inexpensive, confidential and personal service to your business.  Contact Anne for details.

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Unhealthy high streets

Last week it was featured in the news, a report identifying the UK’s unhealthiest high streets.  High streets were ranked by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) according to the numbers of payday lenders, bookmakers, tanning salons and fast food outlets.  There was a clear link between deprived areas and unhealthy high streets with Grimsby, Blackpool and Walsall topping the list in contrast to Edinburgh, Canterbury and Taunton which had the healthiest high streets.

In recent years there has been a proliferation of fast food outlets (FFOs) in the most deprived areas – but why is this an issue?  To start with, there is plenty of evidence backing the link between the frequency of visiting FFOs and health outcomes such as weight gain, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.1 A recent study added further weight to this evidence by finding an association between FFO exposure, fast food consumption and obesity.2  These associations are hardly surprising given that fast food tends to be energy-dense, high in salt and served in large portion sizes.

Despite the reputation though, we have all had fast foods in our time and as the old saying goes ‘everything in moderation!’ I was quoted in an article a couple of years ago suggesting ways to make healthier choices when ordering your favourite takeaway:

  • Switching creamy curries to tomato-based dishes such as tandoori and madras
  • Opt for steamed dishes rather than fried foods
  • Choose diet/sugar free soft drinks instead of regular ones

 

Public Health England also announced in March 2018 a challenge for the whole food industry to reduce calories in foods (most commonly eaten by children) by 20% by 2024.  The introduction of the sugar levy has resulted in widespread reformulation amongst high profile soft drinks manufacturers resulting in commercially successful lower-sugar options.

The government is currently consulting on plans to make the display of calorie information mandatory in out-of-home food and drink outlets because some research suggests that this is effective in reducing overall calorie intake.  (Read my previous blog about this).

 But what can you start to do today in order to provide healthier options?  Now, I‘m not saying take chips off the menu – but you can make small changes to top-selling items to make a big impact!  Look at ways you can modify your existing recipes by the types and amounts of ingredients used and also in the way you cook and prepare the dishes.  Here are some of my top tips:

Reduce calories by switching from double to single cream
Use thick cut chips or wedges in preference to thin cut fries
Use rapeseed oil for frying and remember to drain food well by giving it a good bang and shake
Dry fry meats where possible after trimming away visible fat
Try to include more vegetables into dishes and use seasonal, frozen or canned to keep costs down

 

AB Food Nutrition works with manufacturers and caterers to provide nutrient composition values of their products for labelling & menu boards and also during product development or reformulation. We can work with you to find ways to make existing dishes healthier and provide support in complying with the law if you want to make nutrition claims. Contact Anne for further information about our cost-effective nutrition and labelling services.

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1  Health on the High Street, RSPH, 2018
2  Burgoine, T., Sarkar, C., Webster, C.J., Monsivais, P., 2018. Examining the interaction of fast-food outlet exposure and income on diet and obesity: evidence from 51,361 Biobank participants, , International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 15(1):71 doi: 10.1186/s12966-018-0699-8.

Sugar Reduction Progress Report

Public Health England (PHE) published the first assessment of progress towards the government’s sugar reduction programme this week – the challenge of which was a 5% reduction in the first year compared to the 2015 baseline.

Across 8 of the 10 categories (excluding cakes & morning goods due to data collection limitations) retailers/manufacturers achieved a 2% reduction in total sugar and a 2% reduction in calories in products consumed on a single occasion.

Whilst this doesn’t meet the 5% ambition, it is recognised that there are more sugar reduction plans in the pipeline and also some changes took effect after the first year cut-off point.

 

There have been reductions in sugar across 5 categories; breakfast cereals, ice cream/lollies/sorbets, sweet spreads & sauces, sweet confectionery, yogurt & fromage frais

Yogurts & fromage frais, breakfast cereals, sweet spreads & sauces all met or exceeded the 5% sugar reduction ambition

Calories in products consumed on a single occasion have been reduced in 4 categories (Biscuits, chocolate confectionery, Ice cream/lollies/sorbet, yogurts & fromage frais) by reducing the portion size.

Sugar levels are generally the same across all sectors however for out of home sector, portion sizes likely to be consumed in one go are on average double those of retailers and manufacturers

 

The progress report shows that there is more work still to be done and organisations such as the British Dietetic Association have expressed initial disappointment at the lack of progress made.  Some manufacturers and retailers appear to have made very significant progress where others have made very little, if any!

Products not meeting the 5% target include biscuits, ice cream, confectionery and puddings which is no surprise, as sugar has functions in these foods other than just providing a sweet taste.  Finding alternatives that do not impact on texture or appearance will take time as new technologies are developed.

PHE has also published new guidelines for the drinks industry to reduce the amount of sugar children consume through juice and milk based drinks by mid-2021:

reduce sugar in juice based drinks (excluding single juice) by 5%

cap all juice based drinks (including blended juices, smoothies and single juices) likely to be consumed in one go to 150 calories

reduce sugar in milk (and milk substitutes) based drinks by 20% and cap products likely to be consumed in one go to 300 calories

 

The exemption of milk based drinks from the sugar levy will be reviewed by the treasury in 2020. Progress on drinks covered by the levy shows that in response, sugar has been reduced by 11% and calories per portion by 6%.  Data shows more drinks below the 5g/100g cut-off are being purchased.

As part of the wider reformulation programme. PHE have also announced:

Guidelines for foods included in the calorie reduction programme are to be published mid-2019

Progress towards the 2017 salt targets is to be assessed and published by end 2018, followed by consideration of the next stage of the programme

Product ranges targeted at babies & young children are to be considered

Engagement with the out of home sector to move forward with reformulation

The next progress report on sugar reduction is due spring 2019.  In the meantime, it is as important as ever that the industry continues to work on reducing sugar in top selling products by reformulating or reducing portion sizes.

AB Food Nutrition works with manufacturers to provide nutrient composition values of their products for labelling and also during product development or reformulation. We can work with you to assess the impact recipe changes will have on nutritional content as well as advising on ways to achieve a desired nutritional profile such as a 5% or 20% sugar reduction as well asa reduction in calories. Contact Anne for further information about our nutrition and labelling services.

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