Excess salt intake has been linked to increased risk of hypertension and stroke. The FSA is aiming to reduce salt intake to 6g a day for adults (2.4g sodium), from around 9.5g in 2000/1. The current consumption estimate is at 8.6g, indicating that progress has been made since the campaign was initiated.
The new targets, which the FSA admits are “challenging”, updates targets first set in 2006 for 2010 and revised last year. Around 75 per cent of people’s salt consumption is understood to come from everyday prepared foods, making it paramount that consumer awareness be combined with industry action.
The FSA recognises that considerable progress has already been made, but the new targets, available here, are intended to ensure that retailers and manufacturers keep up the momentum.
The new targets have been set for foods that make the most contribution to salt intake, such as bread, meat, and cereals. Convenience foods like pizza, ready meals and snacks also see big reduction targets.
Rosemary Hignett, head of nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, said: “The 2012 targets are challenging, but we also believe them to be achievable.”
Julian Hunt, communications director of the Food and Drink Federation, said the industry body will work with its members to understand where the greatest challenges lie, and where further investment will be required to meet the targets in the time frame.
“In some circumstances, further significant salt reductions will not be possible until new, innovative technologies, processing techniques and ingredient solutions are developed. We believe that targets are a relatively simplistic approach to driving progress and we’ve outlined to FSA where the particular challenges lie.”
Indeed for bread and bakery products Dr Charles Speirs, baking science and technology manager at Campden BRI, told FoodNavigator.com that reducing salt tends to make the dough stickier and affect bread quality.
He said the new guidelines “will impact on dough to a greater extent”. Although he could not give a reaction on behalf of the bakery industry, he said there may be a need to invest in new equipment to deal with lower salt use.
The new targets are billed by the Food Standards Agency as voluntary. Owen Warnock partner and food law expert at Eversheds law firm said:
“The new standards will not have any legal force as the UK government would not be able to introduce any mandatory levels without either an EU-wide law or making a special case based upon pressing health needs in the UK.”
But he claimed that there is resistance from industry, which is trying to persuade the agency to change the proposals rather than fall out with it.