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Salt-reduction targets: will they get tougher?

By Rick Pendrous , 04-Sep-2012
Last updated the 05-Sep-2012 at 12:39 GMT

Salt reduction will remain a priority for the Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD), according to Dr Susan Jebb, chair of the PHRD's Food Network. And yet there are still no signs of tougher salt reduction targets in processed foods beyond those originally set by the Food Standards Agency for this year

Jebb says reformulation alone is not enough. She has called for a "holistic programme of work beyond 2012". What precisely this means has yet to emerge. It will have to wait for a meeting between Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, the industry, consumer groups and the public health sector in the autumn.

Meat processors, fat spreads makers and some bakers have found it difficult to achieve the 2012 salt targets. So, if they can't achieve them, why set even tougher targets that are even less likely to be met?

The trouble is, people are still consuming too much salt in their diets. Health lobby groups, such as Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), say this is contributing to unnecessary deaths each year from strokes and cardiovascular disease. CASH wants a further 1015% reduction in salt in food.

From conversations held with industry sources over the past month, there appears to be a push for future action on salt reduction to focus more on specific sectors and sales channels such as foodservice, where greater progress can be made. Their argument is that this makes more sense than setting blanket reduction targets that are doomed to fail in certain areas and will undermine any positive achievements.

The Department of Health appears to warming to this industry argument. So, CASH and others are likely to be disappointed if they were hoping for tougher 2014 salt reduction targets.

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