Professor Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, criticised the government for its current salt reduction policy, which, he claimed, was being exploited by some firms.
He told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “I think the food industry has done a very good job but it still has a long way to go. I think the problem is, it’s suffering from a lack of direction from the DoH.
“Unfortunately the DoH doesn’t seem to be doing much about salt. It says that it is trying, but when you ask exactly what is happening, you receive an ominous silence. I think the food industry is using this lack of clarity as a way of getting out of doing certain things.”
MacGregor, who is also founder of lobby group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), stressed that firms must continue to work to meet the 2012 targets and warned “they will certainly hear from us [CASH] if they don’t”.
“Obviously we are anxious to hear about what is to be done about salt targets but the DoH doesn’t seem to want to tell us,” he added.
“In the long-term it will save so many thousands of lives and it should be such a simple and successful policy. We want manufacturers to not just meet the 2012 targets, but also to go beyond them as many of the retailers have done.”
But his comments were rejected by the Food and Drink Federation, which argued that the UK food manufacturing sector was widely recognised as world leader in salt reduction.
As a result of a survey conducted by market research firm Kantar Worldwide, the FDF claimed that its members had collectively reduced the amount of salt in their foods by 9% since 2006.
Pledges on salt reduction
Terry Jones, director of communications at the FDF, added: “Building on their demonstrable track record on salt to date, many FDF members have also signed up to the UK government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal, which includes pledges on salt reduction.”
Jones also revealed that the FDF was working in partnership with the British Retail Consortium and Leatherhead Food Research to produce a “comprehensive report” on salt reduction methods.
The DoH also defended its position and confirmed that: “Information on progress towards meeting the salt targets will be available in 2012.”
A spokeswoman said: “Salt reduction is a key priority of the Public Health Responsibility Deal. Salt targets to be met by the end of 2012 have been set and published for 80 categories of food products.
“As part of its work programme for the coming year the Food Network will consider what further actions are necessary to make sure we continue to make progress towards the public health goal to reduce people’s average salt consumption to no more than 6g of salt per person per day for adults and less for children."