In only a few years health has gone from being a niche category within food to a fundamental part of the business strategy of most major food manufacturers, as well as a key political issue and headline generator.
Official responses last year included a ban on ads for junk food aimed at or which appeal to children up to 15 years old. By December dedicated children's channels will have phased out all junk food ads. Celebrities and licensed characters have also been banned from certain products, along with product sponsorship.
In May the Food Standards Agency (FSA) approved the mandatory fortification of food with folic acid, and in October trans fats in foods came under the spotlight after mandatory restrictions in Denmark and New York City. However, in December the FSA advised the Department of Health that voluntary measures had been so successful that no mandatory restrictions were needed.
2007 was also the year of a major spat over food labelling, with 21 manufacturers and retailers launching a campaign to promote the GDA system rather than the FSA traffic light system.
In the retail world Parfetts cash and carry demanded the removal of hydrogenated vegetable oil from products, while Musgrave, Nisa-Today's, Costcutter and Booker announced measures to help retailers sell fresh produce.
Manufacturers reacted by reducing salt, fat and sugar in their products, which proved a profitable move. According to Mintel, retail sales of 'healthier' foods are now valued at more than £7.4bn and total about 10% of total consumer spending on food and non-alcoholic drinks.
As for the future, ideas such as a 'fat tax' and extending the junk food advertising ban to a 9pm watershed are now credible options.
The issue of alcohol advertising going the way of tobacco remains a possibility, too, and in November The Nuffield Council on Bioethics called for a rise in alcohol prices, restricted pub opening hours and better food labelling.

Rosemary Hignett, Head of Nutrition, Food Standards Agency



"2007 has been a busy year for nutritional labelling. Following a recommendation from the Food Standards Agency in 2006, more and more retailers and manufacturers have adopted traffic light colour-coded labelling on the front of packs.
"Currently, seven retailers, 16 manufacturers and four service providers are using the traffic light approach, with more businesses expected to make announcements in the new year.
"Two such companies are Budgens and Londis, which are rolling out traffic light labels on products such as ready meals and sausages. Convenience store customers are unlikely to have time for a leisurely shop and traffic light labelling helps them to see what's in a food - quickly and easily.
"After carrying out extensive consumer research, we found that the use of traffic light colours makes it easier for shoppers to choose healthier products easily. People can see at a glance whether a product is high, medium or low in saturated fat, sugars and salt. We are encouraging more retailers and manufacturers to use the traffic light labels."

Pete Cheema, owner, Spar MIEGLE, Dundee



"Obviously, market forces and people's choices dictate what we sell in the shop, but we're part of the Health Living Initiative any way and we promote it heavily in the store. Even in our food to go we offer healthier fillings. I think it's something retailers should be proactive about.
"Customers are asking for healthier food and there's a definite tendency towards fresh.
I think it's drummed into children from a very early age about eating a well-balanced diet and children are teaching their parents.
"As for more legislation, I want to see any new initiatives at voluntary level; we've got enough red tape out there and I think it's important that people change voluntarily."

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