People urged to cut out foods with 'killer' fats
guardian.co.uk by Rebecca Smithers on 4 February 2009
The food watchdog is to launch a multi-million campaign to urge people to cut out foods with "killer" fats amid growing evidence that families of all classes are eating far too many crisps, biscuits, cakes and pastries.
The Food Standards Agency will next week underline the strong links between heart disease and diets high in saturated fats, featuring "striking heart-shaped" images in popular foods.
Significantly the agency's research has shown that saturated fat consumption is too high across all social groupings, so the campaign will attempt to reach families from all classes and on various budgets. Middle-class cheese eaters, for example, will be urged to cut back on high-fat hard cheese products and to eat less cheese by grating it rather than eating it in blocks.
One image in the campaign reveals cheese coming through a grater in a heart shape, while another picture shows a "balanced" meal of salmon, peas and broccoli arranged in a heart.
According to the FSA, Britons are eating 20% more than the maximum recommended amount of saturated fat. The campaign will aim to educate consumers about the relationship between saturated fat and heart health, and will provide tips on shopping, preparation and cooking to help adults choose lower saturated fat options. The wide-ranging TV and media campaign will start next week, backed by leaflets, posters, flyers, recipe cards, postcards and shopping guides.
Last year the government announced a series of initiatives to crack down on saturated fats, including the appointment of a "tsar", Susan Jebb, of the government's Medical Research Council, to lead an academic group looking at strategies to reduce saturated fat consumption.
Cutting levels of fat intake by 20% would save an estimated 3,500 deaths a year, the FSA says. Although Britain's consumption of saturated fats has been falling over the past 20 years, largely due to people switching from full-fat to semi-skimmed milk, scientists say it is still too high. The fats make up almost one seventh of the average Briton's calorie intake.
Food manufacturers are also being encouraged to play their part by reformulating products. Snacks such as crisps are high in both salt and saturated fats, for example, but recipes have been altered so that many brands now contain 70% less fat than before.
Claire Hughes, nutritionist with Marks & Spencer, said: "We welcome any campaign from the FSA that helps educate consumers about a healthy diet, and how they can make more informed choices about what they eat."
The FSA hitlist
Foods high in saturated fat, which the FSA wants us to eat less often:
• Meat pies, sausages, meat with visible white fat
• Hard cheese
• Butter, and lard, spreads containing palm oil
• Pastry, cakes and biscuits
• Cream, soured cream, and crème fraîche
• Coconut oil or coconut cream
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) was correct to indict the fats found in crisps, biscuits, cakes and pastries. But these are NOT saturated fats; they are artifically hydrogenated fats which merely resemble saturated fats. There is a huge difference between the two as far as our health is concerned; lumping the two together is highly misleading.
When we talk about saturated fats these days, the popular perception is that we are talking about animal fats. But animal fats are entirely healthy. Indeed, when all the fats we ate were from animal sources -- butter, lard, dripping, cream, et cetera -- the chronic degenerative diseases that plague our lives today were either very rare or non-existent. Evidence over the last decade or so indicates that for optimum health, animal fats should provide upwards of 50% of calorie intake. We should be eating more of them, not less.
An FSA campaign aimed at cutting the consumption of crisps, biscuits, cakes and pastries, may have a useful purpose as the fats used in these have been shown to be harmful, as have the starches they include. But if the safest fats of all -- the fats found in meat, sausages, cheese, cream, butter, and tropical oils such as coconut oil -- are also to be targeted, then our health will only decline even more rapidly than it is at present.
It is no coincidence that diseases such as diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer's and more have taken off since 'healthy eating' was introduced by the COMA Report of 1984. These are classic cases of cause and effect. 'Healthy eating' is not the answer to the problem, it IS the problem. Until that is acknowledged, our health will only get worse.