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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 February, 2004, 11:39 GMT
Supermarkets cut salt content
Baked beans
Salt content in baked beans will be cut
Supermarkets are to reduce the salt content of some own-brand products.

Items such as pizza, bread and baked beans are included in the initiative to give consumers greater choice of healthy food.

The move comes amid growing pressure on the food industry to cut back on sodium in processed food.

The framework, published by the British Retail Consortium, sets upper levels of salt content for standard portions of some of our favourite foods.

For baked beans in tomato sauce, the level will be 2.3g of salt per serving.

For pre-packed white, brown and wholemeal bread it will be 1.1g per serving of two slices.

This is the key to educating people on the role of salt in health
Richard Ali, British Retail Consortium
The move follows a demand for action from Health Minister Melanie Johnson.

Richard Ali, BRC food policy director, said: "We welcome the work of other brand owners and associations and encourage all sectors to join retailers' ongoing work, so that all products within customers' shopping baskets' can be included.

"A long period of time will be needed to bring about the cultural shift in attitudes to salt intake and we feel that a cross Government approach in developing a salt awareness campaign, could facilitate this shift.

"This is the key to educating people on the role of salt in health".

The nine categories identified by the BRC are breakfast cereals, quiches, pizzas, ready meals, sandwiches, soups, cook-in-sauces, bread and baked beans.

Heart disease

Food retailers aim to reach the BRC targets in two of the nine categories within the first 12 months and five categories within three years.

The BRC believes the policy framework will result in overall cuts of 10 to 25%, to help meet the government's salt reduction strategy.

Health professionals are concerned about the nation's high salt intake, which is linked to high blood pressure that can lead to heart disease and strokes.

The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has welcomed the move, but says it is also the responsibility of individuals to make sensible choices.

We need to look at different ways of tackling people having too much salt in their diet and reducing salt in processed foods is one prong
Dr Frankie Phillips, British Nutrition Foundation
BNF nutritionist Dr Frankie Phillips said: "The issue of reducing the amount of salt in our diet is something we have been aware of for a number of years and the food industry has started responding.

"We need to look at different ways of tackling people having too much salt in their diet and reducing salt in processed foods is one prong.

"The other is reducing it at the table and in cooking."

She also stressed the need to combine less salt with a healthy diet and fitness routine.

Under the BRC framework, salt content targets for chilled and frozen pizza will be 3 grams of salt per serving.

Ready meals' targets will be 5 grams per serving, sandwiches - 4 grams and soups 2.5 grams.

Supermarkets will shortly begin discussions with their own-brand manufacturers to change their recipes.

The BRC is committed to better labelling of salt content in foods as part of its initiative.

The Stroke Association issued a statement welcoming the initiative.

It said: "Just reducing the intake of salt by only 3g a day - equivalent to just over half a teaspoon -could reduce the risk of having a stroke."

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