Cheese sandwich warning

How a cheese sandwich could be harming your health

Consumers are to be warned about the hidden dangers of snacks like cheese sandwiches and buttered toast in a high-gear drive by food watchdogs to cut the consumption of saturated fats.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is set to use shock tactics, such as graphic images of fat deposits and furred blood vessels, in a bid to change people’s diets and cut down the consumption of saturated fat, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease.

The campaign is not set to start until next year, but trade magazine, The Grocer, reports that the FSA is set to start testing messages to designed to show that everyday foods – mostly meat, dairy, snacks and confectioner – are far higher in saturated fats than people realise.

Similar messages on cigarette packets have been credited with decreasing the amount of smokers.

One such message will include warning consumers that two slices of buttered toast contain more saturated fat than four doughnuts, and that one cheese sandwich contains more than half the recommended daily amount of saturated fat.

‘Shock tactics show potential,’ said the report for the FSA by CMI Research.

‘Dramatising the amount of saturated fat in foods in an unexpected and unappetising way proved effective, as almost all were repulsed by the idea of eating lard.’

But critics say shock tactics could actually mislead people.

Ed Komorowski, the technical director of Dairy UK, said over-simplifying messages could harm the consumer, pointing out that cheese is high in vital calcium.

He said: ‘Comparing the saturated fat content of hot buttered toast with doughnuts is not giving the full picture of the nutritional qualities of these products.’

Clare Cheney, the director general of the Provision Trade Federation, which represents sellers of breakfast favourites such as bacon, milk and yoghurt, added that there is no comparison between cigarettes and these foods.

‘Diet is a complex thing,’ she said. ‘It’s not like cigarettes, where you either smoke or you don’t and if you do it’s bad for you. With diet, it’s about eating a combination of different things in different quantities.’

Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: ‘We would certainly regard a reminder about these fats as being a good thing.’

‘[But] they must not go over the top. Any warning would have to be carefully worded to make clear that dairy products are not unhealthy foods, they should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet.’

The FSA denied it was considering warnings on packaging, and said it still had a wide range of consultations to make before deciding how best to convey its message.

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