Food manufacturers have been coming under pressure to reduce salt and cut out fatty ingredients from their products. Birds Eye says it has removed 550 tons of fat, Heinz claims to have reduced salt and increased the amount of vegetable in some foods, Kraft and Nestle have also decreased the amount of salt in their foods. But a series of articles in this week's Guardian have been examining whether they really have cleaned up their act. Walkers, the best selling potato chips, have radically changed the contents of the saturated fat that they use and have reduced salt. Their ad says that their chips now contain the same level of salt as a slice of white bread. But the issue for Dr. M.Rayner, nutrition expert at Oxford University, is that chips are still not healthy food--"the industry seems to think making diets healthier is about choosing healthier versions of the same foods within categories. But that's not enough - you've got to cut out whole categories".
In the last few years the manufacturers have made real progress but for them the problem is the next steps that they will be willing to take. It is fat and sugar that make up the bulk of many products, when you remove them you there is not much left. And they are cheap: the cost of industrial fat has fallen by 50% in the last 50 years but the cost of a healthy ingredient such as fruit has increased by a third. The Guardian analysed the composition of a fast-food strawberry milkshake: 59 "ingredients" as opposed to the 4 essentials (berries, milk, ice cream and vanilla). The sobering fact is that the food manufacturerer's consumption of additives continues to grow—the market increased by 2.4% between 2001 and 2004 and is expected to grow 2-3% a year. As one specialist explained, "You can't actually make low-fat mayonnaise. But if you are a mayo manufacturer, you have to make reduced fat mayo and that requires additives. If I wanted to do this at home,I would use yoghurt and make tzatziki instead." :: Guardian