Food and drink manufacturers have branded the National Institute for Clinical Excellence as "out of touch" after the health authority called for the industry to remove trans fats from products.

NICE issued guidance this week advising that trans fats "should be eliminated from food" and that manufacturers should further reduce salt to save 40,000 lives a year from heart disease and stroke.

Manufacturers said they had already spent millions of pounds reformulating products to meet existing targets. "We're surprised NICE has found the time and money to develop guidance that seems to be out of touch with the reality of what has been happening for many years," said FDF director of communications, Julian Hunt.

"The UK industry is leading the world when it comes to voluntarily changing the recipes of popular food brands so they are lower in salt, fat or sugar. Reformulation efforts have already resulted in the levels of trans fats in foods dropping to well below the suggested maximum daily intake recommended by the WHO."

The Dairy Council was equally scathing. "As one of the stakeholders who took part in the NICE consultation we are very supportive of measures that improve public health but we are surprised NICE has chosen to release recommendations in areas where government agencies already have initiatives under way," said director Dr Judith Bryans.