FDF slams 'scare tactics' over fat levels in crisps

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

The FDF has accused the British Heart Foundation of 'scare tactics'
over its newly launched Food4Thought campaign.

The second phase of the campaign, which was launched today ahead of World Heart Day this Sunday, purports to "expose the hidden salt, fat and sugar contained in common foods, so children can better understand the potential damage its doing to their hearts and health"​.

The central thrust of the foundation's claims is that half the UKs children are 'drinking' almost five litres of cooking oil every year as a result of their pack-a-day crisp habits.

This message is being delivered via an ad campaign featuring a young girl drinking from a bottle of cooking oil with the caption - What goes into crisps goes into you.

"I am concerned we are a nation drowning in excess oil, salt and sugar as we and our children continue to ignore the warnings and consume excessive amounts of unhealthy foods,"​ said BHF medical director Peter Weissberg.

"Crisps are just the tip of the iceberg. If you consider all the other unhealthy foods our kids are consuming the fat just continues to pile up."

But Julian Hunt, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF)'s communications director, said that while his organisation welcomed anything that raises the debate about diet, such scare tactics were a waste of time.

"One of the great things about our industry is that we strive to give consumers genuine choice, whether it is a better for you version or a completely reformulated standard product,"​ he said.

Obesity is rising rapidly. It is estimated that, if current trends continue, a third of adults, one fifth of boys and a third of girls will be obese by the year 2010.

In addition, heart disease alone costs the UK nearly £8 billion per annum. The Health Select Committee estimate that the full costs of obesity and overweight people to the country is in the region of £7 billion per year.

There are signs that UK consumers are beginning to eat healthier by cutting down on snacking. Sales of savoury snacks have taken the greatest battering, falling in volume by 17 per cent between 2002 and 2005 according to market analyst Mintel.

By comparison, crisp sales have dropped by nine per cent over the same three-year period.

But the BHF insists that children are still eating too much junk food. It said that half of children surveyed admitted to eating at least a pack of crisps a day, and that almost one in five eat crisps twice a day or more.

The organisation claims that in a typical 35g bag of crisps there is about two-and-a-half teaspoons of oil. In a larger 50g pack this goes up to three-and-a-half teaspoons.

"The BHF believes having a daily dose of such a high-fat, nutritionally poor product is a threat to children's long-term health,"​ said BHF medical director Peter Weissberg. "Daily unhealthy snacking is a worrying habit."

As a result, the BHF is calling for a ban on the marketing of junk food products to children, particularly on television and the internet, along with cooking skills to be a compulsory part of schooling across the UK.

The International Obesity Task Force, part of the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO), has also warned that food companies are getting round self-imposed restrictions on advertising by using the internet as a primary means of communication, and has demanded action.

Ofcom, the UK's advertising watchdog, published a number of proposals for consultation on this matter in March, recommending a ban on food and drink advertising or sponsorship to pre-school children and a set of eight rules about the content of food and drink advertising.

Related topics: Fats & oils

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