Over four years (2021-2025), the Department of Health aims to reduce calories, saturated fat, sugar and salt in the Irish diet. The food industry (including food manufacturers and foodservice providers) are being asked to use less of these target nutrients in many everyday foods. The voluntary goals finalised in December 2021 are intended to help people improve their diet and their overall health.
|Salt||10 % reduction focused on the food groups that contribute the most to people's salt intake (and include the PHE* salt food categories)|
|Sugar||20 % reduction focused on the food groups that contribute the most to people's sugar intakes (and include the PHE* sugar food categories)|
|Saturated Fat||10 % reduction in the saturated fat content of foods that contribute most to peoples saturated fat intakes|
|Energy (Calories)||20 % reduction in calories focused on product categories that contribute significantly to children's calorie intakes|
* PHE: Public Health England, now called the office for health improvement and disparities (OHID)
All you need to know about food reformulation
How does my food business begin to reformulate our meals/products/ingredients?
By reducing the calories, saturated fat, salt or sugar content of your product, you can provide better food choices to consumers.
Each business's food reformulation journey will differ. But here are some steps to get your food business started:
1. Check if your food products are listed in the forty priority food categories for reformulation.
2. Use our Decision Tree and Calculator to understand your reformulation starting point (baseline) and the nutrient composition for your food product to meet by 2025. Businesses are encouraged to work towards improving the nutritional composition of their products and any improvements made between 2015 and 2025 count.
3. Identify key ways in which you can achieve the food reformulation nutrient composition targets. Check out the Case studies and Useful resources below for inspiration and support.
A Roadmap for Food Product Reformulation in Ireland
The Reformulation Roadmap is a core element of Ireland’s Obesity Policy and Action Plan setting targets for the reduction of the levels of calories, saturated fats, sugar, and salt in commonly eaten processed foods. It was developed by the Obesity Policy Implementation Oversight Group (OPIOG), who are charged with delivering the Government’s commitment to combat obesity. Reformulating food and drinks, to reduce their salt, sugar and saturated fat content, results in better quality food options for consumers. Health considerations are the single most important driver of this need for change to the Irish food supply.
What is Food Reformulation?
When referred to in the context of the Food Product Reformulation Roadmap for Ireland (2021-2025), food reformulation means improving the nutritional content of commonly consumed processed foods and drinks by reducing calories and target nutrients (such as saturated fat, salt and sugar). The goal of reformulation is to reduce target nutrients without increasing the energy content or nutrients of concern to ensure better quality food choices are available to Irish consumers.
In April 2023, we held a ' Technical Briefing on Food Reformulation - Industry Queries'. The webinar provided guidance on the nutrients for reformulation in priority food categories, determining baseline product composition and 2025 target nutritional composition, categorisation of food products and the data sets available to the Task Force for monitoring progress. See the webinar here.
This Food Reformulation presentation is for anyone interested in food reformulation in Ireland: food manufacturers, food retail industry, food service sector, students, lecturers and researchers.
What is the Food Reformulation Task Force?
The Food Reformulation Task Force is a strategic partnership between The Food Safety Authority of Ireland and Healthy Ireland at the Department of Health. The purpose of the Task Force is to implement the Roadmap for Food Product Reformulation in Ireland. It will help drive progress towards the targets to reduce calories, saturated fat, salt and sugar in everyday processed foods and drinks by working with industry and stakeholders. Food companies who manufacture and supply foods that make the biggest contribution to the intake of target nutrients in the Irish population will be identified and food brands which are purchased in the largest volume will also be pinpointed. These companies will have the greatest impact on the success of reformulation in Ireland. Progress towards meeting the targets will be tracked from a baseline in 2015 and published in Task Force progress reports. To provide transparency on the process and evidence which informed the approach of identifying prioritised foods to which reformulation targets will apply, the FSAI hosted a Food Reformulation Webinar on 1st June 2022.
To be successful in implementing the Roadmap for Food Product Reformulation in Ireland it is important for all stakeholders to share ideas and work together. Food reformulation is for all sectors of the food industry: small and large businesses, and applies to entire product portfolio’s. To learn from each other, and achieve the objectives of the Roadmap the Task Force will host an annual collaboration workshop. The workshops will provide an opportunity for engagement from business to business working in food reformulation and direct links with the Task Force. The first event was hosted on 2nd December 2022. See Food Reformulation in Ireland - A Workshop for Food Businesses.
An allowance for lactose in dairy based yogurt
Following feedback from the yogurt industry and its representatives regarding the naturally occurring sugar content of yogurt in the form of lactose, an allowance will be made. Research published by the FSAI in 2021 found in a sample of n=191 dairy based yogurts on the Irish market in 2019, the median lactose content was 3.3 g / 100 g with a range of 0.0 g – 5.6 g / 100 g. This is lower than the lactose allowance provided for in the Public Health England (PHE) Sugar Reduction Programme of 3.8 g / 100 g. A Roadmap for Food Product Reformulation in Ireland sets out the intention to align, where possible, with the PHE reformulation programmes approach. Within this context, the Food Reformulation Task Force has taken the pragmatic decision to provide a lactose allowance of 3.8 g / 100 g for dairy based yogurt. This allowance will be applied when reporting on monitoring activities by subtracting the 3.8 g / 100 g from the average total sugar content per 100g. Updates have been made to the reports “A technical report on the methodology for setting nutrient baseline values and evaluating progress” and “Nutritional characteristics of priority food categories for food reformulation in Ireland” to reflect this allowance.
The use of artificial sweeteners in the reformulation of sugar in food products and non-alcoholic beverages
Why should manufacturers reduce sugar?
High dietary intakes of sugar in Ireland are an issue of public health concern due to the rising rates of overweight and obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as Type 2 Diabetes. This situation is the basis for the call to the food industry to reformulate the sugar content of certain commonly consumed processed prepacked foods by 20%, as set out in the report Priority Food Categories for Reformulation in Ireland. Reducing the sugar content of food incrementally can allow consumer palates to adapt to less sweet food, ultimately changing consumer taste preferences slowly over time.
What is WHO saying about the use of artificial sweeteners when reformulating food?
A World Health Organization (WHO) report on the use of artificial sweeteners published in May 2023, concluded that artificial sweeteners should not be used to control body weight or reduce the risk of NCDs.
Safety assessments of certain artificial sweeteners
- (a) The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a hazard assessment in July 2023, which categorised aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans (IARC Group 2B)” based on limited evidence for carcinogenicity in humans.
- (b) In July 2023, the Joint FAO / WHO Expert Committee for Food Additives (JECFA) also conducted a full risk assessment which includes considerations on exposure and concluded that there was “no convincing evidence from experimental animal or human data that aspartame has adverse effects after ingestion”. This led to JECFA reaffirming their previous acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 40 mg/kg body weight.
- (c) At the moment aspartame remains an approved additive under EU law. The safety of several artificial sweeteners is part of a programme of re-evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA is currently re-evaluating the safety of two aspartame related food additives i.e., the salt of aspartame-acesulfame (E 962) and neotame (E 961). The salt of aspartame-acesulfame (E 962) is a mixture of two sweeteners, aspartame (E 951) and acesulfame K (E 950), while neotame (E 961) is a chemically related substance manufactured from aspartame. The re-evaluation of aspartame-acesulfame (E 962) will consider all new data on aspartame since it was last evaluated by the EFSA in 2013 and this will include the work that IARC and JECFA published in July 2023. EFSA will also update its dietary exposure assessment of aspartame as part of the re-evaluation of E 962. The outcome of these evaluations will be used by the European Commission and EU Member States (including Ireland) to decide on whether any risk management measures will be necessary for these artificial sweeteners. The IARC and JECFA opinions on aspartame and the EFSA re-evaluations of artificial sweeteners permitted for use in foods as of January 2009, according to Regulation (EU) 257/2010, mean the use of artificial sweeteners in food is currently under review and could be subject to regulatory change.
Advice for food businesses
Considering this re-evaluation programme and the possible updates to the additives regulation with respect to the use of sweeteners in food that may result, it would be prudent for the food industry to focus its reformulation efforts on sugar reduction rather than substitution with artificial sweeteners.
- Food Reformulation Task Force: Monitoring Sugar in Processed Foods in 2022
- Monitoring Sodium and Potassium in Processed Foods
- Food Reformulation in Ireland Powerpoint Slides
- Decision Tree and Calculator for Determining Food Product Reformulation Baseline
- The Food Reformulation Task Force Progress Report 2022
- Food Reformulation Task Force: Priority Food Categories for Reformulation in Ireland
- Food Reformulation Task Force: Nutritional Characteristics of Priority Food Categories for Reformulation in Ireland
- Food Reformulation Task Force: A technical report on the methodology for setting nutrient baseline values and evaluating progress
- Reformulation of Breakfast Cereals: The Accuracy of Nutrition Declaration on Food Labels for the Monitoring of Food Reformulation in Ireland
- Reformulation of Yogurt - The Accuracy of Nutrition Declaration on Food Labels for the Monitoring of Food Reformulation in Ireland
- Salt and Health: Review of the Scientific Evidence and Recommendations for Public Policy in Ireland (Revision 1)
- Guidance Note 36 Best Practice on the Use of Potassium Based Salt Substitutes for the Food Industry
Food Reformulation Task Force Webinars
December 2022 - Food Reformulation in Ireland - A Workshop for Food Businesses.
Teagasc Food Research Centres in Ashtown, Dublin and Moorepark, Fermoy encompass a unique range of infrastructural capabilities, scientific knowledge and know-how to support companies of all sizes and stages of growth in meeting their product reformulation goals to produce healthier and more sustainable foods.
The National Prepared Consumer Food Centre, based at Teagasc Ashtown, is a state-of-the-art facility with cutting edge equipment that can provide food businesses with the expertise and technical resources that they need to reformulate products effectively. The Centre houses pilot scale processing and packaging equipment, which companies can use for research and development in collaboration with Teagasc and other innovation support organisations. Companies may also access modern analytical and sensory laboratories to characterise reformulated foods in terms of nutritional, compositional, microbial and sensory profiles.
To hear more about how they can support you, there are a series of videos available here:
Contact Details for Teagasc:
- Shay Hannon, Manager, Prepared Consumer Foods Centre
Telephone: +353 (1) 805 9990 / +353 (87) 672 3696
- Ciara McDonagh, Head of Food Industry Development
Telephone: +353 (1) 8059546 / +353 (87) 1145120
Enterprise Ireland is the state agency responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets. We work in partnership with Irish enterprises to help them start, grow, innovate and win export sales in global markets. In this way, we support sustainable economic growth, regional development and secure employment.
The application of research and innovation to business challenges is critical to the success of the Irish economy. We provide supports for both companies and researchers in Higher Education Institutes to develop new technologies and processes that will lead to job creation and increased exports. We can help companies of all sizes to engage in innovation and research activities. From €5,000 Innovation Vouchers open to all, through collaborative research, right through to industry-led R&D at the top of the innovation ladder, we are here to help.
These supports may be suitable to assist Food companies in the reformulation of their products. For projects to be considered eligible for funding they must demonstrate suitable levels of innovation and technical challenges.
Further details on the range of supports are available on the Enterprise Ireland website at:
- Innovation Vouchers
- Agile Innovation Fund
- Research, Development & Innovation (RD&I) Fund
- Innovation Partnership Programme
Key contact/more information
For further information please contact your Enterprise Ireland Development Adviser or email/call us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or +353 1 727 2120
If you are not a client, please contact your nearest Enterprise Ireland regional office.
The Food & Drink Federation (FDF), Scotland
Bord Bia’s vision is for customers around the globe to recognise that Irish food and drink is world-class; that it is high quality, distinctive, and made by a diverse range of creative producers from a unique and fortuitous island location. Bord Bia’s purpose is to bring Ireland’s outstanding food, drink and horticulture to the world, thus enabling growth and sustainability of producers. Headquartered in Dublin, Bord Bia supports the national and international ambitions of Irish food, drink and horticulture businesses through its highly focused organisational structure and its network of offices in EMEA, Asia and the USA. Bord Bia acts as a link between Irish food, drink and horticulture suppliers and existing and potential customers throughout the world. Bord Bia offer a library service for clients and queries can be sent to email@example.com.
- Shay Hannon, Manager, Prepared Consumer Foods Centre
Food Reformulation Research Paper Library
Click here to go to the library about food reformulation.
Dairy Consumer Foods, Kerry Dairy Ireland
Saltwell - sodium reduction in pizza, sauces, et cetera.
Néstle - saturated fat reduction
Reformulation in the catering sector