Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of the lobby group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The dinosaur-like approach to salt reduction from the FDF and BRC had misrepresented the [recent] report from Leatherhead Food Research [LFR].
“There are not major problems in the battle to reduce salt further – it is perfectly possible. For example, potassium bicarbonate could be substituted for sodium bicarbonate,” he said.
The LFR report provided food companies with “valuable information to achieve their salt reduction goals and indicates that gradual reductions in the salt content of food, coupled with the use of potassium based salt or other ingredient based solutions, can be used to lower the salt content of all food in line with the government’s recommendations”, said a statement from CASH.
Showing the world
MacGregor said:“The UK food industry leads the world in salt reduction and is showing the world how to do it.”
Working with food companies would allow a reduction in salt intake to a maximum of 6g per day, he added. “This will prevent 36,000 strokes and heart attacks every year, 18,000 of which would have been fatal, while also saving the NHS billions of pounds a year.”
MacGregor said that discussion should now focus on a further 10–15% reduction in salt targets beyond the 2012 levels. But the targets should be agreed with the Food Standards Agency and the food industry in a consultative way.
A technical committee on salt is being set up and CASH's view is that further targets should be set for 2014 and 2018, he said.
The FDF and BRC claimed that the independent LFR report revealed that “retailers and major brands [were] reaching the limit of what they can do until there are further scientific advances".
While potential future methods exist to cut salt, they need “either considerably more scientific development, including establishing their safety for consumption, or have yet to be tried in actual foods,” according to a joint statement from the FDF and BRC.
Further salt reductions were likely to be achieved through “small changes to individual products rather than dramatic reductions across entire ranges", they said.
The organisations recommended:
- Encouraging companies not currently engaged in the Public Health Responsibility Deal to become involved.
- Spreading the successful approaches used by big name retailers and brands to smaller businesses, particularly within catering.
- Consumer education, such as encouraging people to use herbs and spices when cooking and to taste food at the table before adding salt.
BRC deputy food director, Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, said: "The UK leads the world in salt reduction and we're approaching the limit of what is currently possible. Producing foods with even less salt but which go off too quickly or lack flavour could simply result in consumers switching to higher salt products. That's no solution.”
Salt - in numbers
6g ................ Maximum salt intake per day that could be achieved with food companies' co-operation.
36,000 .......... Number of strokes and heart attacks prevented each year by a reduction to 6g of salt per day.
18,000 .......... Deaths prevented by the above.
£bns ............. Savings made by the National Health Service as a result of the above.