Per-serving targets have been developed for salt reduction for 11 food categories and 24 sub categories, based on the 10 most popular food groups consumers buy in the ‘out-of-home’ sector. These include chips and fries, burgers, pies, curries, steaks, sandwiches and pizza.
An additional specific target has been set for children’s meals of 1.8g for every 100g. This includes children’s meal deals in fast food restaurants, but not school meals.
The DH has urged businesses to meet these targets within two years of signing up to the ‘out-of-home’ pledge.
Out-of-home maximum per-serving targets had not been set for food categories where products were not covered by the 2017 targets, it said.
Barbara Gallani, director of regulation, science and health at trade body the Food and Drink Federation told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “There’s a need for salt reduction across the board, so the fact that there’s a target to start the journey is good news.
“We have been working with the DH on targets and we have done some very thorough work to come up with something which is very challenging for companies. Hopefully the deadline will enable them to work on further reductions.”
In a statement covering targets for both packaged foodstuffs and foodservice operators, the DH said: "We want to improve the health of the nation and the evidence shows that too much salt can lead to high blood pressure which can increase the risk of conditions such as heart disease and stroke.
“On average, we are eating approximately 2g of salt more each day than the recommended amount [6g] and it is vital that we address this. This is why we are working with industry through the [Public Health] Responsibility Deal to reduce the amount of salt in foods. We have just finalised new salt targets for 76 categories of food and call on industry to sign up.”
‘Want to go further’
“The World Health Organisation has said our salt reduction work is world-leading and we now want to go further to help prevent premature mortality from heart disease and are calling on the industry to sign up and support us.”
According to the DH, cutting salt intake lowers blood pressure in just four weeks, which in turn reduces the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Reducing population salt intakes by just 1g would prevent 4,147 deaths and save the National Health Service £288M every year, it claims.
According to its latest statistics, food industry efforts to cut salt in products have helped to reduce the population’s intake by 15% since 2000/01 from 9.5g to 8.1g in 2011.
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of pressure group Consensus Action on Salt & Health, said 2017 salt targets issued on March 7 for packaged foodstuffs were too soft on meat and cheese. However, he welcomed the fact that some progress had been made.