Food industry gives cautious welcome to salt targets

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt, Food processing, Food, Fsa

Newly published salt reduction targets have been cautiously
welcomed by the UK food industry as being 'more realistic than the
2005 proposals', though health campaigners are furious.

Food and Drink Federation (FDF) deputy director general Martin Paterson said that his organisation welcomed the Food Standards Agency's voluntary proposals, but emphasised the need to "study the detail to ensure the targets are practical, realistic and take into account the microbiological safety of food."

The new voluntary salt reduction targets are designed to further encourage a reduction in the amount of salt in a wide range of processed foods. The agency says they will help progression towards the target of bringing down the average UK salt intake to 6g a day.

It claims that in the UK, at least 26 million people are eating too much salt and that processed foods contribute about 75 per cent of salt intake.

But some health campaigners have accused the government of backing down over implementing more stringent regulations. They claim that some targets have been cut after pressure from food companies who claimed that they were unable to cut salt in certain products for technical or safety reasons.

The FSA however believes that the proposals are both realistic and challenging.

"Many consumers want to reduce their salt intakes to improve their health,"​ said Gill Fine, FSA director of consumer choice and dietary health.

"Although challenging, we believe the salt levels set out represent a realistic rate of reduction, which will have a real impact on consumers' intakes."

The reduction targets apply to salt levels in the 85 food categories that the FSA say contribute most to the amount of salt in our diet. These include everyday foods such as bread, bacon, ham, breakfast cereals and cheese, and convenience foods such as pizza, ready meals, savoury snacks, cakes and pastries.

The agency believes that the new targets will build on the steady progress made by the food industry on voluntary salt reductions. Major retailers including ASDA, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose have made progress with salt reduction across a wide range of products.

In addition the Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers has reduced the levels of salt in breakfast cereals by 33 per cent since 1998 while the Federation of Bakers has cut the amount in bread by up to 30 per cent.

"Industry will continue to work with FSA to help government achieve its aim of reducing Britons' salt intake,"​ said Paterson.

"We welcome the agency's recognition of the enormous progress by industry to date. Last year alone, the UK food and drink manufacturing industry delivered an astounding 7.4bn worth of products with lower levels of salt."

It would appear that the achievement of salt reduction is in tune with current consumer trends. The FSA said that sales of household salt have already dropped by 10 per cent in a year.

In addition, research published by Mintel in September 2005 showed that increasingly people are turning to black pepper, herbs and spices, instead of salt, to add flavour to their food. The agency is currently developing the next phase of its salt awareness campaign.

"The guidelines are the next step in the programme of salt reductions,"​ said Fine.

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