Producing Healthier Food & Drink Products

Consuming excess calories, fats, salt and sugar, contributes to our increasing levels of overweight and obesity and the risk of serious conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Therefore, our aim is to reduce both salt and calories in the Scottish diet. Supporting Health Choices (and a background paper) set out the case for reformulation and related changes required to reduce calories and the nutrients of public health concern (fats, salt and sugar). We need to shift the balance of food and drink available towards healthier products to support healthier diets and achievement of the Scottish Dietary Goals.

Salt reduction

Most people in Scotland eat too much salt. This can raise blood pressure which can then increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. We can all try to eat less salt by shopping wisely (and checking the labels) and being sparing with salt at home when cooking. In Scotland, nearly 10% of our salt intake comes from bread and rolls, followed by bacon, Italian and traditional ready meals, cheddar and hard pressed cheese and fat spreads.

Why should we reduce salt

Salt reduction is essential for the reduction of high blood pressure and lowering the risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease.

Salt reduction targets

Salt reductions may be made across a wide range of food categories, in accordance with agreed UK salt targets which are set for achievement by 2017.This sets out salt reductions across 76 separate food categories. We invite the food industry to build upon their significant achievements in relation to the 2012 targets by now working toward the new 2017 targets.

2017 salt targets

Calorie reduction

Calorie reduction, through reductions in fats and sugars in commonly consumed products, is an important public health priority. This may be undertaken in a variety of different ways and we welcome all types of activity. We have set out a number of actions that maybe considered across all food and drink categories.

Sugar reduction

Most people, both adults and children in Scotland eat too much sugar. You should aim to cut down by having fewer sugary foods such as sweet, biscuits, cakes and drinking less sugary drinks. There are natural sugars in whole fruit and milk, but these aren’t the type of sugars that we need to cut down on. It is the sugars that are added to foods like confectionery, biscuits, cakes and sugary and juice drinks that we should cut down on. The main sources of added sugar in the Scottish diet are soft drinks, confectionery and sweet biscuits, table sugar, cakes, pastries and puddings, jam, marmalade and sweet spreads.

Why we should cut down on sugar

Foods that contain added sugars are often high in energy and this can contribute to weight gain. Being overweight can increase the risk of health complications such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Sugary foods and drinks also contribute towards tooth decay, especially when eaten between meals.

The sugars in whole fruit are less likely to cause tooth decay because the sugars are contained within the cells of the fruit. But when fruits are juiced or blended the sugars are then released and these sugars can damage teeth. So you should be careful how much fruit juice you drink as it is still sugary and try to drink no more than 150 mls of fruit juice a day.

What your business can do

Reformulation can offer immediate benefit for consumers without requiring a change to their usual food and drink. We know it may take time for some businesses to deliver the level of change we are seeking.

Where you can make reductions in one nutrient this should not be accompanied by increased levels of others. Consideration should also be given to the nutritional composition of budget range products to help ensure that consumers of these are not nutritionally disadvantaged. Initially you should focus on the following food categories;

  • Soft drinks with added sugars
  • Biscuits, confectionary, cakes, sweet pies and pastries.
  • Meat Pies and pastries
  • Dairy Products
  • Savoury Snacks

We invite business to take action (with a focus on standard products) on one or more of the following:

  • Reformulation of standard manufactured products
  • Sourcing healthier products
  • Creation of new healthier products and recipes
  • Progress towards achievement of the revised salt targets
  • Reductions in portion size of standard products

Advice on reformulation

The actions taken will vary depending on the nature of your business. Helpful practical guidance on general reformulation can be found on the Institute of Grocery Distribution website and on the Scottish Food and Drink Federation website.