The Food Standards Agency today kicks off a major campaign to reduce the levels of saturated fats in consumers’ diets.

The regulator is calling for shoppers to buy leaner meat and less cheese, as well as cut down on unhealthy snacks, in a campaign that will be backed by a “graphic” 40-second television commercial highlighting the dangers of heart disease.

The body estimates that UK consumers eat around 20% more saturated fats than the recommended maximum.

“People say they know saturated fat is bad for them but they don’t necessarily link it to heart disease and what they are eating,” said FSA chief executive Tim Smith. “There are simple ways we can cut down the amount of saturated fat we all eat and protect our health. We need to eat leaner meat and a bit less cheese, switch to lower-fat milks and eat healthier snacks, cutting down on cakes and biscuits.”

He added: “Supermarkets and manufacturers have done some good work, so that now when we’re shopping there is an increasing range of lower-saturated-fat foods available and better labelling, and we’d like to see more of this. It is important that we work together to increase the variety of healthier foods available and continue to address this important public health issue together.”

Saturated fats are linked to around 200,000 premature deaths each year from heart disease and related health problems.