Food firms ‘cut salt by 8%’, says FDF after pesto claims

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Food manufacturers ‘cut salt’, despite claims

Related tags Salt levels Nutrition Food

Food manufacturers have cut salt significantly in their products, insists the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), after a pressure group urged Public Health England (PHE) to “get tough on enforcing the 2017 salt targets”.

Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) claimed new research revealed some food manufacturers have increased salt levels in their pesto sauces “despite warnings that salt damages  health”.

While acknowledging “some responsible companies” ​had made large reductions in salt, the pressure group claimed: “Time is running out for food industry; with less than three months to go, CASH calls for Public Health England to get tough on enforcing the 2017 salt targets.”

Leading pesto brand Sacla Classic Basil pesto now had 18% more salt than eight years ago, claimed the pressure group.

But an FDF spokeswoman told that pesto sauces were made to a variety of recipes.

‘Varying levels of parmesan’

“One of the reasons for differing levels of salt found in pesto sauces can be attributed to the varying levels of parmesan or other hard cheeses used, which are often a primary ingredient and also a key source of salt.

“Parmesan is a ‘protected destination of origin’, or PDO, which limits the potential for these products to be reformulated.”

Responding to CASH claims that significant progress was needed to cut salt in food products, the trade organisation said FDF members had reduced the salt in their products by 8% under the government’s Responsibility Deal. The achievement built on previous voluntary action by companies, which helped to reduce adult intakes of salt by 11% between 2005/6 and 2014.

“Far from sitting back, food producers have continued to invest heavily to adapt the recipes of some of Britain’s biggest and best-loved brands to voluntarily reduce levels of salt in their products, without compromising on taste, quality or safety,” said​ the spokeswoman.

UK food and drink producers continued to look for and develop opportunities to reduce calories, sugars and fats, while boosting fibre and micronutrients to contribute to an overall holistic approach to public health, she added.

‘Providing texture or shelf-life’

“Most ingredients in a food perform a wide range of functions, and go well beyond adding flavour, such as providing texture or shelf-life.”

But CASH chairman, Professor Graham MacGregor, from Queen Mary University, London, described an alleged failure to cut salt levels as “a national scandal”.

He said: “The UK was leading the world in salt reduction, but so far PHE is doing little to ensure that the 2017 salt targets are met, and has not confirmed that they are setting new targets to be achieved by 2020. This is a national scandal as we know we can save thousands of people from unnecessary strokes and heart attacks if population salt intake is reduced, and furthermore, it is the most cost effective health policy.”

Commenting on salt in pesto, CASH assistant nutritionist Sarah Alderton said people might not realise just how much salt pesto could contain.

None of the products we surveyed could be described as ‘healthy’, so consider having pesto in smaller portions, less frequently, or try other pasta sauces lower in salt and fat instead,” ​she advised.

Related news

Follow us

Featured Jobs

View more


Food Manufacture Podcast

Listen to the Food Manufacture podcast