The government is backing voluntary measures to improve health, through measures such as the Public Health Responsibility Deal, and does not want to add more burden on to businesses, said Eric Price, food law and trading advisor at consultancy Exova.
However, a level playing field is needed, in which all manufacturers should undertake salt reduction to a similar degree, said Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health. This should be under the control of a body with the power to legislate if companies failed to comply, he said.
Commenting in The Lancet last month, MacGregor refuted earlier research by Taylor et al, that salt had little impact on cardiovascular health. Had this view been accepted, it could have been used to argue against legislating on reducing salt levels.
"Contrary to the claims by Taylor and colleagues and many press headlines, these new results, along with all the other evidence, clearly demonstrate that a reduction [in consumer salt intake], is immensely important," said MacGregor.
According to the House of Lords Science and Technology Sub Committee, which reported last month, voluntary measures or 'nudging' had not proved as successful as was hoped in improving consumer health. The sub commitee called on the government to legislate.
But Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science at the Food and Drink Federation accused the Lords of rushing to judgement on the efficacy of voluntary measures.