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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 February 2008, 15:40 GMT
'Even toddlers' could reduce fats
Child eating ice cream
Everyone's saturated fat intake needs to come down, the FSA says
The nation is eating too much saturated fat, and even children as young as two may need to consume less, the Food Standards Agency says.

The regulatory body aims to reduce everyone's saturated fat intake by 20%, through a combination of raising awareness and working with industry.

The target mainly applies to those aged five and above, but the FSA says, would also be appropriate for many toddlers.

This means for instance whole milk for those over two may not be desirable.

Saturated fat, the FSA notes, is linked to raised cholesterol, which in turn is blamed for heart problems which claim 200,000 lives each year - the leading cause of death in this country.

Changing cake

This particular form of fat - present at high levels in dairy food, pastry, cakes and many meat products - currently accounts for 13.3% of an average person's diet, but the agency is hoping to bring this down below 11%.

The issues around reducing saturated fat in mainstream food products are much more complex than salt
Food and Drink Federation

It is to work with industry to reduce the saturated fat content of food in the same way the two have co-operated over bringing down salt levels.

This will include encouraging firms to reformulate products, which many have already started work on.

Many brands of crisps and chips are already significantly lower in saturated fat, some cheese has been changed, while at least one food retailer has managed to cut the saturated fat content of its ready meals by more than 20%.

Cutting portion size will also be the subject of discussion in months to come, although Rosemary Hignett, head of nutrition at the FSA, stressed consumers will need to know they are not being charged the same for a smaller amount of product.

"If the new portion sizes do not represent value for money, they won't be bought."

Whole milk
Cakes, chocolate, biscuits, pastries
Some meat products, poultry skin, and covering meat

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said much of industry was already active on these fronts.

"A snapshot survey of our leading members, for instance, found that since 2005 they have removed almost 30,000 tonnes of saturated fat from products as part of their ongoing efforts to reformulate their products," said spokesman Julian Hunt.

"FDF members have also been working on new approaches to portions, such as treat-size snacks, individual portion packs and sharing products."

The British Heart Foundation said it was pleased with the announcement.

"The FSA's efforts to raise consumer awareness on saturated fats are very welcome," said Stuart Barber, head of policy and public affairs.

"They should also be applauded for their work with the food industry to encourage them to make their foods healthier through reformulation."

Milk matters

Although children do need a higher fat intake than adults, the FSA said obesity statistics meant everyone should now aim for lower amounts of saturated fat - and this could include children as young as two.

Vegetable oils - eg sunflower, olive
Fish - eg mackerel, salmon
Soft margarine
Avocados and nuts

Provided the child is not underweight and the diet otherwise balanced, it would therefore be appropriate to switch to instance from whole to semi-skimmed milk at this age.

Dr Mary Fewtrell, a nutrition specialist at the Institute of Child Health, said such a recommendation sounds "quite sensible".

"There's no hard data to show that this will have benefits, as no-one has really followed up children who consume less saturated fat, but it does seem reasonable.

"Of course you can't have one rule for all children, and parents should make their judgements based on their own instincts."

Tam Fry, chair of the Child Growth Foundation, said cutting saturated fat from children's diets was important.

"But it is important to remember that children do need fat - about a third of their diet should come from this - and in getting rid of the bad fats parents must make sure their children still get the good, unsaturated ones.

"They need them to grow and thrive."

'Not all' fast food unhealthy
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