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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Firms to cut salt in sliced bread
Person eating a burger
High salt levels contribute to heart disease and strokes
Food manufacturers plan to cut the level of salt in sliced bread by 5%, the Food and Drink Federation has said.

The proposal comes after the Department of Health "named and shamed" firms, claiming they had failed to take enough action to cut salt levels in food.

Manufacturers have also agreed that salt in breakfast cereals would fall by a further 9%.

However, campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health said the planned action did not go far enough.

High salt intake contributes to high blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

The industry's proposals on reducing salt content have been sent to Health Secretary John Reid, and Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson.

Compulsory labelling

Ministers have already threatened compulsory labelling for high-salt products unless the industry agrees to radical cuts.

Ms Johnson called for cuts of up to 45% in sausages, burgers, bread and breakfast cereals.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health told BBC News Online: "These proposals are a welcome contribution which we will have to analyse.

Most people get 25 to 30% of their salt intake from bread - which makes it the biggest source of salt
Nutritionist Penelope Gilbert

"Any move that begins the reduction of salt in food is welcome step."

She said reductions in the salt content of bread and cereal were just two of many proposals they would be receiving from supermarkets and food giants, who had been given a September deadline.

"We will look at the reduction levels as a whole and make our comments then", she added.

Health campaigners Consensus Action on Salt and Health said the action did not go far enough.

Nutritionist Penelope Gilbert said: "Most people get 25 to 30% of their salt intake from bread - which makes it the biggest source of salt in food.

"We would want a reduction of at least 10% per year. The fact is that salt in bread has little effect on the actual taste.

"Studies have shown a 10% reduction in salt is not noticeable so the industry should be making bigger cuts for the sake of public health."

Heart disease

Health experts also warn that in a 200g pasty, the salt level would still be 2.5g, more than a third of the 6g maximum adult daily intake recommended by the Food Standards Agency.

Research suggests that 70,000 heart attacks and strokes would be prevented if adult salt intake dropped to 6g a day instead of the present average of 9-12g a day.

The food industry has an annual turnover of 67.6bn a year.

Deputy Director General for the Food and Drink Federation, Martin Paterson, said while the industry is committed to the reduction in salt levels, changes would be gradual.

"Working in a consumer democracy means that we can only move at the pace dictated by consumers", he said.

"A reduced salt product which is left on the shelf by consumers, or to which they add salt at the table, will not benefit anyone."




SEE ALSO:
Food giants hit back in salt row
17 Jun 04  |  Health
Firms urged to cut salt in food
06 May 04  |  Health
Supermarkets cut salt content
26 Feb 04  |  Health
Less salt 'would save thousands'
12 Dec 03  |  Health


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