Never ones to be killjoys, the FSA suggests on the Eat Well website that people should swap their cake or biscuit treat for a currant bun or malt loaf with low-fat spread. Delicious.

The healthy advice was posted as the agency launched a consultation in July, recommending a voluntary cut of 10% in sat fat levels in cakes and biscuits by the end of 2012, compared with 2008 levels. It acknowledges the difficulty of cutting sat fats in non-plain biscuits, so recommends a lower, 5% cut on fancier biscuits, based on a 10% cut in the sat fats of the half made up of dough.

The consultation follows an FSA TV ad campaign in February to raise awareness of sat fats, with more ads on the way.

The agency's aim is to reduce the average intake of sat fats from the current 13.3% of food energy to 11% for everyone aged over five. Such a shift, it says, could result in "approximately 3,500 annual deaths averted" and an improvement in quality of life, altogether saving the UK economy about £1bn each year.

The industry has been responding with vigorous reformulation. By the end of last year, Tesco had removed 110 tonnes of sat fats from its cakes, achieved by reducing the use of margarine. In November, United Biscuits unveiled its reformulated McVitie's plain biscuit range containing 50% less saturated fat. This reformulation was, in part, achieved through a change in the fat blend used in the biscuit dough. In July, UB announced more cuts, including a reduction in sat fats of 18%-50% across several lines in its Go Ahead! range, along with a 30% cut to Jacob's Cream Crackers. "There was a £6m R&D spend behind those first reductions and that was only for plain biscuits," says Mark Sugden, UB director of market strategy and planning.

Overall, in January to June this year, 250 products were reformulated with less sat fat, [Mintel] taking the total to more than 700 since January 2007. That's nine reformulated products every week for the past two years.

Finsbury Food's technical teams are in contact with the FSA, while Premier Foods is putting together its response to the consultation. "It's a high priority and it's important we do the right thing for consumers. But we must also ensure we are able to maintain as little differentiation from the existing product as possible," says head of category for sweet Versha Patel.

Focus On Cakes & Biscuits