Companies will be able to claim custard tarts, sausage rolls and even doughnuts are healthy foods under a European crackdown on junkfood advertising, campaigners complained yesterday.
All three fatty foods would pass proposed European Commission thresholds for products which can be marketed as healthy or nutritious, according to Cancer Research, the National Heart Foundation and Which?. They demanded the Health Secretary Alan Milburn oppose the crackdown, which they warned would weaken the fight against obesity.
When the Health Claims Regulation was passed three years ago, the EC said: "Only products offering genuine health or nutritional benefits will be allowed to refer to them on their labels." However the new definitions of unhealthy food announced by Brussels were far weaker than the nutrient profiling model developed by the Food Standards Agency. All of the EC's thresholds for categories such as biscuits, meat-based products and breakfast cereals would be given amber or red signs under the FSA's traffic light labelling scheme.
Which? blamed EU states protecting such traditional food as salty German bread for diluting the legislation.
An analysis of 120 foods common in the UK diet by Oxford University suggested that a Tesco jam doughnut with 200mg of sodium, 18g of sugar and 5.7g of saturated fat per 100g would easily meet the health threshold for bakery food of 500mg sodium, 25g sugar and 8g saturated fat. Other products that would be approved would be Sainsbury's pork sausages, salted Kettle crisps and a Burger King Whopper.
Colin Walker, senior public affairs officer at Which?, said: "Jam doughnuts and crisps being allowed to make nutrition claims would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. The goalposts have been widened to the point that no one remembers why they were put there in the first place.
"The UK Government needs to get these proposals thrown out and completely rewritten."