Minister gives industry September deadline for action plans on salt

By Susan Birks

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food standards agency

Government moves closer to imposing controls on salt levels

Public health minister Melanie Johnson's has stunned the industry by issuing a September 18 deadline for food manufacturers to come up with radical salt reduction plans.

In an open letter she has accused them of not trying hard enough to cut salt content, despite the industry making what it believed were "huge strides" towards government targets.

Leading industry bodies, including the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the British Retail Consortium and the National Farmers' Union, have responded to the attack with an angry letter to the health secretary John Reid. They claimed to be "astounded" at suggestions of lack of co-operation.

Johnson gave manufacturers until September 18 to submit new proposals, because the current ones would only result in a "disappointingly low average daily reduction of 0.6g by 2005"

She said more action was needed to reduce the average intake of salt to 6g per person per day and that plans submitted so far meant around 50% of products, such as pizzas, sandwiches and ready meals, would still have unacceptably high levels.

Martin Paterson, the FDF deputy director general, said: "The UK industry has made huge strides, welcomed by the Food Standards Agency, in reducing salt across a range of products." He said that in addition to further reductions pledged this year, the industry has come up with a plan for reducing salt in meat products.

The Department of Health (DoH) said that if the revised plans were not acceptable, it would consider statutory measures, but declined to elaborate. Johnson has already threatened action on food labelling.

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