There is no doubt that improvements in public health can be achieved if changes are made to diet in line with our current knowledge of the relationship between food consumed and the development of disease and ill health.

However, because of the wide variation in the genetic makeup of the population and the pattern of food consumption between individuals, we must be very careful when making recommendations to the public as a whole.

The FSA has conducted an analysis of the number of lives that would be saved if different healthy eating strategies were to be adopted. It is clear from these data that the most important strategy, by far, is to increase the consumption of fruit and veg followed by a reduction in the salt intake. By contrast, the benefits of reducing satfats and sugar are relatively small. For salt, there has been some success in the past, largely because the manufacturers have reformulated products to reduce the sodium, not because consumers have made changes to their purchasing patterns.

It follows that the most effective way to improve the nutritional quality of the diet of the population is to focus on increasing the amount of fruit and veg consumed. If this is successful then there will also be concomitant reductions in the intakes of satfats, sugar and salt. If the logic of the above is accepted then there really can be no justification for the FSA to consider taxing "unhealthy foods" (The Grocer, page 5, March 27). Even if a case can be made to support this strategy, it would be impossible to implement. How would decisions be reached on which foods would be subject to taxation? It is inevitable that the criteria would be arbitrary and there would be a whole raft of anomalies.

Perhaps this is an appropriate time to ask why the FSA is involved in the promotion of healthy eating at all. Most of the public health promotion is currently done by the Department of Health, such as Change4Life. The logical approach would be for the Department of Health to take on the responsibility for the promotion of all healthy eating strategies.

Verner Wheelock, Verner Wheelock Associates