Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s firm Mars advises limit on products – BBC News

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Image caption Dolmio’s carbonara, along with lasagne sauces, pesto, and macaroni oven kits, are all on the list

The company behind Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s sauces says some products should only be consumed once a week due to high salt, sugar or fat content.

Mars Food said it would distinguish between “everyday” and “occasional” items on packs and website.

The company said some foods were higher in salt, sugar or fat to maintain the “authentic” taste of products.

The National Obesity Forum described the move as “hugely unusual” but “very imaginative”.

The advice is part of Mars’s Health and Wellbeing Ambition to “create and promote healthier food choices”.

Mars told the BBC that just 5% of its products would be labelled “occasional”.

These include Dolmio lasagne sauces, pesto, and carbonara and macaroni oven kits, and Uncle Ben’s oriental sauces.


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Mars said its website would be updated over the next few months with the list of products to be eaten not more than once a week, and “everyday” ones.

Adults are recommended to have 70g fat a day, 20g saturated fat, 90g sugar and 6g salt.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, a charity that raises awareness about the condition, said: “Mars signposted their direction of travel towards healthier products several years ago and are now putting their money where their mouth is.”

Media captionThe Victoria Derbyshire programme looks at products affected and hears from healthy eating campaigner Jenny Rosborough from Action on Sugar

Nutritionist Jenny Rosborough from Action on Sugar told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme: “It’s great that they are pushing forward this responsible labelling and raising awareness.

“But the challenge we have with it is that only the health conscious will look at the labels in the first place, therefore it’s not going to hit the people who need it the most.”


Analysis

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By Helen Briggs, BBC News

Whose responsibility is it to make sure we eat healthy food and shouldn’t the sugar tax apply to all foods, not just soft drinks?

These are some of the questions being asked following the announcement by Mars that some of its products – such as pasta sauces and pesto – should be eaten only occasionally.

A tax on sugary soft drinks will take effect in two years’ time – giving food manufacturers a nudge towards cutting sugar.

But in the food sector the government relies on industry to self-regulate. According to campaign group Campaign for Action on Salt reformulation is key, but while it remains voluntary many companies are failing to do this.

One of the UK’s leading nutrition experts, Prof Tom Sanders, says the Mars move sounds like “Martian spin” as there’s no need to add large amounts of salt to cook-in sauces – and these foods should be everyday foods not treats.


Mars said the products the advice applies to are to be reformulated over the next five years to cut salt, sugar or fat.

Nutritionist Laura De La Harpe told BBC Radio 5 live it should not be difficult to reduce the sugar content.

“What would concern me would be if they start adding sweeteners, artificial sweeteners to replace the sugar,” she said.

Mars said its “nutrition criteria” has been developed based on recommendations from leading public health authorities such as the World Health Organization.

Fiona Dawson, a global president of Mars, said: “Our nutrition criteria sets a very high standard for our products, and we also want to help our consumers understand the difference between ‘everyday’ and ‘occasional’ products within a balanced diet.

“The food industry has already made great strides in reducing sodium, but we have more work to do to help consumers reduce sodium intake.

“We support release of the US FDA’s draft sodium reduction guidance, because we believe it’s important to begin a stakeholder dialogue about the role industry can play in this critical part of consumers’ diets.”

The move comes after Chancellor George Osborne announced a sugar tax, with the aim of tackling childhood obesity, in his recent Budget.

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