Craft bakers fear they have been unfairly demonised by a report highlighting the high salt content of bread.
Lobby group Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) said that one in four loaves on sale in the UK contains as much salt per slice as a packet of crisps, a situation it describes as “outrageous”.
But the National Association of Master Bakers, whose 600 members run some 5,000 shops, says it is already hitting the Department of Health’s salt targets for 2012.
The trade body has been working in partnership with the Food Standards Agency to reduce salt content to a maximum of 1%. But director Anthony Kindred told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the trade risked a backlash from consumers who were led to believe that most bread is too salty.
“That’s the problem we’re going to get. We’ve got to somehow fight back,” he said. “The FSA are also on our side because they don’t want people to stop eating bread.”
He said association’s work to reduce salt “obviously needs restating if the CASH people are going to come up with these crazy claims”.
Kindred added: “We’ve done a project working with the FSA and developed recipes for craft bakers to meet the 2012 targets. The majority of craft bakers are now using those recipes and a lot of them are now doing even better – they’re getting about 0.9g of salt in 100g of finished bread product.
“There are a few speciality bakers that have kept the salt content where it was, at about 1.4%, for things like focaccia and ciabatta which are salty flavoured breads anyway.
“We have an online calculator that bakers can use, paid for by the FSA, so if you’re not sure about the salt content of your recipe it will tell you where you are.”
Kindred said that Trading Standards officers in Norfolk and Barnsley had monitored bakeries in both areas and reported 100% compliance with the 2012 salt targets.
Kindred said that bakers’ costs typically rose by 0.5% when salt content was reduced and “plant bakers find the dough slightly stickier than it used to be”.
He said that if the reduced salt recipes were phased in over months, consumers were unlikely to spot any difference in flavour.
Could do better
The CASH report also criticised bakers of fresh bread for failing to provide nutritional information, an area in which Kindred conceded that members “could do better”.
The research analysed 294 loaves from a range of outlets and found that Paul Pain de Campagne (brown) was the saltiest, with 2.83g, followed by Cranks’ Seeded Farmhouse, with 2.03g.
CASH accepted that salt levels in bread have fallen by a third over the past decade. But chairman Professor Graham MacGregor, who is also chairman of the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine, said: “With bread being the biggest contributor of salt to our diets, it is frankly outrageous that bread still contains so much salt.
“The Department of Health needs to ensure that all bread is clearly labelled and that all manufacturers reduce the salt of bread to less than the salt target of 1g per 100g.”
Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers, said: “The majority of wrapped, sliced bread available already meets the 2012 targets. Our members are continuing to endeavour to reduce salt by contributing to ongoing research to establish which other means are available to reduce salt in bread.”