The food industry has slammed a proposal to tax fatty foods.

The recommendation, made by University of Reading researchers, followed a three-year project that examined taxing sources of saturated fat and using the income to subsidise fruit and vegetables.

Researchers estimated that intake of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol would fall 4.5% and 5.4% respectively under the scheme and predicted consumption of cheese would drop 20.2%, beef 7% and eggs 5.7%, while fruit and vegetable consumption would rise 9.2%.

As a result, the risk of developing coronary heart disease and cancer would fall, the researchers said.

The Food and Drink Federation dismissed the idea as 'patronising' and warned that it would hit lower-income families, who spent a higher proportion of their income on food and drink.

"It would result in very low changes in nutrient intakes and cause a fall in intake of fatty acids deemed beneficial to health," said Julian Hunt, FDF communications director.

A fat tax characterised food as negative without recognising its benefits, said Dairy UK technical director, Ed Komoroski.