The baking industry is opposed to an expected plan to introduce salt-style reduction targets for saturated fats, arguing that such a scheme would be technically problematic and expensive.

Following its work on salt, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is widely expected to launch a consultation on targets for reducing saturated fat in food components, such as pastry and cream, which are used in biscuits, cakes, pastries and savouries. Saturated fats are a major dietary cause of heart disease in the UK.

"Saturated fats should not be handled in the same way as salt reduction. It’s a complex issue, much more so than salt, and this makes product development difficult and costly," said Barbara Gallani, Biscuit Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery manager at the Food and Drink Federation.

Reducing saturated fat in specific food components is par- ticularly problematic, she said. "Reductions couldn’t be made in chocolate, because of strict legal definitions of what chocolate must contain, while there is very little that can be done with cream," she said. "If you use dough with reduced saturated fat in a chocolate-covered biscuit with a cream filling, there would be problems with fat migration and shelf-life."

Biscuit and pasty manufacturer Proper Cornish recently launched a project to reduce saturated fat. "There are things we can do, but they all cost," said marketing manager Mark Muncey. "We also have to consider the authenticity of the product.

"Targets are not the answer," he added. "The government needs to educate people so that they take responsibility for what they eat."

Last month, the British Retail Consortium published an achievement table on saturated fat reductions in own-label pro-ducts, including sausage rolls, cakes and sandwiches, while biscuit manufacturer United Biscuits halved the saturated fat content of its McVitie’s biscuits in December, following a three-year, £6.5m project.