Supermarkets all fail salt reduction targets for ham and cured meat

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Salt reduction targets Salt Sainsbury

Scientists have warned about the food safety implications of excessive salt reduction
Scientists have warned about the food safety implications of excessive salt reduction
All of Britain’s multiple retailers have failed to achieve the targets for salt reduction in their ham and other cured meat products under the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD).

According to the annual returns from 307 PHRD partners, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury, Tesco, Co-op, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose reported that they had not achieved the targets. However, all achieved their targets for hard-pressed cheese.

While Sainsbury said: “We are working towards meeting the targets for bacon and ham/other cured meats,” ​Morrisons announced: “We do not meet targets for this range due to shelf-life and microbiological food safety issues, especially with products with higher salt content.”

Ham and other cured meats covered by the target i​nclude hams, cured pork loin and shoulder etc. It e​xcludes ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed products, for example Parma ham. It also excludes speciality products produced using traditional methods such as immersion.

The targets for 2012 were an average 1.63g salt per 100g (650mg sodium) and followed the 2010 target of 2.0g salt per 100g (800mg sodium).

According to the PHRD annual returns, Asda, Sainsbury and Co-op also failed to meet their salt reduction target for bacon. The 2012 bacon target was an average 2.88g salt (1,150mg sodium) per 100g. the 2010 target was 3.13g salt (1,250mg sodium) per 100g.

Disappointing to hear’

In response to the news, Katharine Jenner, campaign director for health lobby group Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH), said: It was disappointing to hear that companies signed up to the Responsibility Deal have failed to meet the 2012 salt reduction targets for ham and cured meats, despite the great progress that has been made in other categories. With 75% of the salt we consume coming from processed food, further progress from the food industry is crucial if we are to reduce the salt intake of the UK population.

“Although so much progress has been achieved, reductions across all the main sources of salt in the diet are needed to achieve a level playing field. Not achieving the targets in popular foods such as ham and other cured meats will have a detrimental knock-on effect; in failing to meet this target, other categories that rely on these meats have suffered, eg. sandwiches, soups and pizzas.

 “A delay in achieving salt targets for all categories means we are putting the UK population at risk of suffering from high blood pressure, brought on by high intakes of salt in the diet.”

Dangers of excessive salt reduction

In the past top scientists have warned​ about the dangers of excessive salt reduction on microbial growth in foodstuffs, which could lead to premature food spoilage and potential food poisoning incidents if pathogens grow in the absence of sufficient salt, which acts as a preservative.

Jenner dismissed most of these warnings as an excuse.

“We acknowledge that a certain level of sodium chloride, or potassium chloride, is required in hams/other cured meats for safety reasons, but it is misleading to suggest this is the only factor that affects food safety,” ​said Jenner. “Water content, the chill chain and shelf-life are major determinants of food safety.”

She called for manufacturers and retailers to set shorter shelf-lives instead.

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