Plant bakers braced for more government salt reduction demands

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Alex Mayfield asked the DH to look elsewhere to meet salt reduction targets
Alex Mayfield asked the DH to look elsewhere to meet salt reduction targets

Related tags: Salt reduction targets, Sodium

Bread bakers should be prepared to face further reductions in salt levels when new limits are set by the Department of Health (DH) later this year – despite hitting their 2012 targets and reducing levels by 40% over the past decade.

The Federation of Bakers and government agreed the 2012 Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD) target of 0.4g of sodium per 100g of product for bread – which was met despite significant technical challenges.

However, DH deputy director for health and wellbeing Richard Cienciala told yesterday’s (May 21) Federation of Bakers’ annual conference in London that there was scope for further reductions.

“First of all let me say thank you for reducing salt in bread and related products. Bread is not a high salt product but we eats lot of it so this reduction was very important,”​ he told delegates to the conference held at Lord’s cricket ground.

In relation to new targets, he added: “Around the turn of the year we will set out what we think is achievable. I'm sure in some cases we will find scope to go further, but in others we may find we have reached​ [the limit].”

Technical difficulties

Several delegates raised the problem of the technical difficulties caused by removing so much salt from the dough.

Alex Mayfield, the Federation’s new chairman and business solutions director at Warburtons, said when salt was taken out, something else had to be added to maintain the integrity of the product.

“As a Federation, we think we have done a lot already and would ask the DH to look elsewhere,” ​he said.

Cienciala responded by saying the DH was not seeking to demonise any sectors, but that salt reduction across the board was vital to improve public health.

Commenting on the technical difficulties, he added: “The more you can provide evidence of restraints, the more informed the decision will be.”

‘Stringent targets’

Cienciala also sought to appease delegates by insisting that ministers were taking a broad approach to salt reduction, and not merely focusing on stringent targets for particular sectors.

“Targets are an important part, but not the sum of that strategy. We also need to reduce the amount of salts that are eaten out of the home,”​ he said.

This would be achieved by a “complete package”​ of targets, chef training and consumer information, he added.

Delegates highlighted what they perceived to be an uneven playing field for plant bakeries – which have to hit salt reduction targets and provide clear nutritional and ingredient labelling – compared with craft and artisan bakers that sell goods that aren’t packaged.

“While a number of us go down the low salt route, if other​ [sectors are able] to go down a high salt route then that isn't a level playing field,”​ added Mayfield.

However, a representative for the craft bakery sector said many artisan firms were following the Federation’s lead when it came to salt targets.

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