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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 August 2005, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Targets for salt in food relaxed
salt cellar
High salt intake is linked to a risk of high blood pressure
Proposed targets to reduce the level of salt in food have been made less stringent after industry complaints.

The Food Standards Agency scrapped its initial recommendations after industry said they could not be met.

The group, including Heinz, Sainsbury's, and Tesco said there were technical and consumer taste issues.

But the group Consensus Action on Salt and Health criticised the FSA for bowing to pressure from industry.

We have an important and challenging target to reduce average population salt intakes to 6g by 2010 and we need the co-operation of all sectors, but particularly the industry, to achieve this
Food Standards Agency spokeswoman

The British Meat Processors Association, Kraft and Unilever also complained about the FSA's proposals.

An FSA document shows the proposed salt level in ham and other cured meats was raised from 1.9g per 100g of food to 2.5g per 100g following discussion with the industry.

A target of 0.5g per 100g of dried soup was increased to 0.7g per 100g after the industry said the old target "would not pass consumer acceptability".

The industry also said a target of 1.5g of salt per 100g of tomato ketchup "would not be achievable", despite some reduced salt ketchups already being at that level.

High salt intake has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, which leads to strokes and heart disease.

CASH said research had shown that 70,000 strokes and heart attacks, more than half of which are fatal, would be prevented if the average salt intake was reduced to six grams per day.


Professor Graham MacGregor, from the Blood Pressure Unit at St George's Hospital, Tooting in London, and chairman of CASH, said: "It's not surprising that if you ask the food industry to do something they are not keen to do, they are going to say, 'We can do a bit, but not very much'.

"It seems the FSA are just accepting that. Where's the evidence that you can't reduce the salt any further ?"

He said levels of salt could be reduced over a number of years and people's salt receptors would adjust along the way.

"It's nonsense for the industry to say it's not possible to do it. Public acceptability will be fine provided it is done slowly."

A spokeswoman for the FSA said a consultation exercise was under way and it hoped to find ways to meet the government's target of reducing the average salt intake to 6g per day by 2010.

"Industry have claimed, either due to technical feasibility or consumer acceptability, that they cannot reach some of the original target levels suggested.

"We have an important and challenging target to reduce average population salt intakes to six grams a day by 2010 and we need the co-operation of all sectors, but particularly the industry, to achieve this."

Martin Paterson, deputy director general of industry body the Food and Drink Federation, said: "The food industry is committed to continuing to reduce levels of salt in products and providing lower salt options where technologically possible, safe and acceptable to consumers.

"We will continue to work with the FSA and the Department of Health to help achieve sodium reductions in our diets and to increase consumer choice."

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