Manufacturers want the Department of Health (DoH) to adopt a more focused salt reduction strategy as part of its Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD), if further progress is to be made.
Food industry delegates on a technical working group (WG), which advises a high level steering group on public health in food chaired by health secretary Andrew Lansley, will be arguing this case when the WG next meets this month.
Manufacturers want a "less simplistic" approach to dietary salt reduction, which involves "broader engagement" and more "consumer awareness" within the PHRD, said Barbara Gallani, director for food safety and science at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), who sits on the WG.
The government's voluntary salt reduction targets for 2012 are currently under review. Sectors such as processed meats, cheese, sauces and bread, in particular, have hit practical and consumer acceptance obstacles in achieving the targets they were set.
The targets were originally adopted by the Food Standards Agency before its responsibilities for nutrition and health were transferred to the DoH in 2010.
"Because we have got to a stage where changes are going to be slower and costly, then it makes sense to look at individual categories and see what is possible rather than saying we want to shave off another 0.1g across the board," said Gallani.
Catering is seen by manufacturers as a sector where far more progress could be made.
As part of the PHRD, the DoH has launched three new salt pledges for the catering sector covering training and kitchen practice, reformulation and procurement, which commit companies to a 15% reduction in salt and ensuring at least 50% of products meet 2012 targets.
"What we would really like to see, and we haven't up to now, is better data on catering because you might identify categories within catering that are miles off what we have already achieved in retail and food manufacturing [on salt reduction] and really target those," said Gallani.
While campaign groups such as Consensus Action on Salt and Health have called for even tougher salt reduction targets to be set across the board for 2014, the government appears to be warming to the industry's view that this approach is unlikely to achieve the desired goal of reducing consumer salt intake.