NEARLY half of the UK’s manufacturers and retailers have signed up to a pledge to reduce the amount of saturated fat in products.

But the “responsibility deal” to tackle obesity backed by the Department of Health has come under fire from campaigners who have demanded Ministers get tougher with industry.

Among those signing up is food giant Nestle which says 3,800 tonnes of saturated fat will be removed from its Kit Kat under a new recipe for the wafer filling which has been formulated at its home in York. More than a billion bars are sold each year, with the new recipe becoming available next year.

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Mondelez International is changing products including its biscuit Oreos and supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury and Bradford-based Morrisons will also reduce fats in a number of items.

A poll today finds the vast majority of adults have no idea how much saturated fat they should eat every day. The recommended level is 30g for men and 20g for women. If the nation could cut the amount of saturated fat it eats by 15 per cent, it is estimated 2,600 premature deaths from heart disease could be prevented every year.

The responsibility deal encourages producers and retailers to reduce artificial trans fat, calories and salt in foods and set up consistent front of pack food labelling.

But Tam Fry, trustee of the National Obesity Forum, said ministers must consider proper regulation instead of working with industry on a voluntary basis.

“It is a small step in the right direction but it is only a small step,” he said. “This latest piece of hype from the Department of Health will still mean over 50 per cent of food will still have extreme levels of saturated fat. The much vaunted voluntary responsibility deal will never succeed until the Government takes a grip and makes everybody sign up to it.”

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: “It’s hugely encouraging that companies providing almost half of the food available on the UK market have committed to this new responsibility deal pledge and they are leading the way to give their customers healthier products and lower fat alternatives.”