The Food Standards Agency (FSA) chairman Jeff Rooker has confirmed that no new salt reduction targets would be set beyond those already established for England for 2012.
Speaking at the FSA's board meeting in London last month, Rooker said: "The Department of Health (DH) will not be running any campaigns, as far as I know, and do not plan to continue [salt] targets for England."
Although responsibility for nutrition and health in England has been transferred from the FSA to the DH by the government, the FSA is still responsible for these issues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Rooker said salt reduction would still be a focus of the FSA's activities in these countries.
Away from salt
Rooker's comments support the views expressed by a number of sources that have spoken to Food Manufacture. As health secretary Andrew Lansley refocuses his food Public Health Responsibility Deal on obesity and calorie reduction, sources said the DH was moving the emphasis away from salt.
Recent announcements from the Responsibility Deal Food Network co-chaired by Dr Susan Jebb, head of diet and population health at the Medical Research Centre have called for further industry action to reformulate products to make them healthier, introduce portion control and shift their marketing to lower calorie options. The DH is also launching a new Change4Life campaign focusing on calories.
The DH has denied that work on salt reduction was being dumped, adding that decisions on the future of salt reduction were awaiting a review of achievements to date, which is expected soon.
While the food industry has made substantial voluntary salt reduction in food products over recent years, sectors such as bakery and processed meat have warned that reductions were reaching the limit of what was technically feasible and were beginning to compromise customer acceptance and, in some areas, food safety.
Leatherhead Food Research has embarked on a research project to investigate the obstacles to further salt reduction by the industry.
A number of nutrition experts have criticised some aspects of the government's move to focus its strategy on obesity. Professor Judy Buttriss, director general of the British Nutrition Foundation, said: "We have got huge amounts already invested on salt reduction by the retailers and many manufacturers, but there has been less done in foodservice we still have a long way to go."
Buttriss added: "Without the public awareness campaign that the FSA funded it is going to be hard to maintain that pace of reduction because people will think they've moved on."