A review has begun of the raft of nutrition targets left by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) under the previous government, which will mark a shift away from the ’carrot and stick’ consultations and aims towards a "lighter" approach to regulation.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley’s Responsibility Deal will be launched in December as part of the public health white paper, after the FSA’s nutrition remit was absorbed into the Department of Health (DoH). The model is close to the Food & Drink Federation’s (FDF) Courtauld Commitment, whereby food businesses created a framework for collective responsibilities on sustainability, but this time with health NGOs providing a public interest balance.

Calories are the first topic to be discussed, with a source close to the talks predicting "a move away from arbitrary portion sizes to talk about calories more generally". The source added that the Responsibility Deal would identify a number of "quick wins" as well as longer-term public health commitments.

Barbara Gallani, FDF food safety and science director, said there was a review under way as to how the industry could contribute to tackling obesity. "The direction of travel has not changed and the focus on public health remains," she said. "Saturated fat reduction will be one of many aspects in tackling obesity and diet-related diseases, which the Responsibility Deal is looking into. That does not mean it will be in exactly the same format as the FSA’s recommendations."

However, sat fat reduction is likely to appear in the white paper only in general terms, prior to the publication of a formal Responsibility Deal next year. "It’s early days and sat fat is not an immediate subject for discussion, but a medium-term topic," said Stephen Airey, outgoing head of sat fat reduction at the Department of Health (DoH).

"It should achieve the same ends as the previous approach through targets, but the expectation is that it will be lighter on bureaucracy."

* Airey’s role at the DoH is to be filled by Corinne Vaughan, who is leading on food formulation, including salt reduction, energy and saturated fat.

>>DoH reveals food team but stays quiet on salt