An article published in The Irish Times newspaper today says the food safety watchdog has “abandoned plans to impose specific targets for reduced salt content in most processed products after opposition from the food industry”.
Dr Wayne Anderson, director of food science and standards, told FoodNavigator.com that the FSAI has been working on salt reduction since 2004, and it does have voluntary targets for meat and bread products, which together could account for 50 per cent of a person’s salt intake.
But unlike its UK counterpart, the FSA, it does not publish these targets in a separate section on its website. “The industry is well aware of those targets,” said Anderson. The 63 companies and trade associations on board with Ireland’s voluntary programme do report on progress and plans on an annual basis however. The most recent report is available at this link.
For other product categories, the FSAI has tended to informally advise companies to work to the UK targets, as most of them export to that market anyway.
The FSAI has recently run a consultation on whether to formalise its advice and communicate the same targets directly. Anderson said the FSAI is still in discussions with industry.
Salt reduction is about “negotiating, talking to industry and keeping the pressure on,” Anderson said. “We do that and we are very successful at it.”
He added that the FSAI also monitors salt reduction by actually testing products, while the FSA just looks at product labelling.
It is also important to remember that manufacturers are only prepared to reduce salt bit by bit. “We know we are getting to a point where more difficult,” he said.
Part of the difficulty is down to technical challenges posed by big salt reduction, and part is consumer resistance.
“The reality is that companies don’t want to lose market share in a recession.”
In September, when the FSAI last reported on progress, Professor Alan Reilly, chief executive of the FSAI, said: “The figures in relation to the average person’s intake of salt are alarming. On average, the Irish adult consumes 9.56 grams of salt per day, which adds up to 3.5 kilograms of salt in one year alone. The recommended dietary allowance for salt in adults is 4 grams per day, which would be 1.5 kilos per year per adult.”