Parfetts Cash & Carry is risking the wrath of the country's biggest food manufacturers with a campaign to rid products containing hydrogenated vegetable oils from its shelves.
The wholesaler has given suppliers, including giants Masterfoods, Premier Foods and Cadbury Trebor Bassett, until the end of 2008 to remove the deadly man-made trans fats, which are linked to health problems such as heart disease, from their lines. Those that don't face being delisted from the group's six C&C depots.
Brands such as Maltesers, Mr Kipling, and Cadbury's Double Decker all contain HVOs. The wholesaler said it was hoping not only to put pressure on suppliers but also raise awareness of the issue among its retailers and their shoppers.
Independents had a duty to speak out on subjects that affected all consumers, said MD Steve Parfett, who is also chairman of leading buying group Landmark.
"Our sector has to be as vociferous as the multiples on these issues. They have managed major PR coups on health grounds recently and independents have to show their own credibility when it comes to health."
Parfett insisted he was not looking to adopt a confrontational stance, which was why he was giving suppliers "fair warning". If progress were not made, he would be true to his word and delist lines.
Parfetts, which has annual sales of £234.3m, said some leading suppliers had taken the first steps to removing HVOs, but that there were still many popular household brands that contained them.
Kate Harding, acting head of customer relations at Cadbury Trebor Bassett, said the company aimed to eliminate trans fats before 2008. "We have removed added trans fats from the great majority of our lines. We are researching new recipes that will remove them from the rest of our confectionery this year."
Masterfoods and Premier Foods refused to comment.