Page last updated at 13:04 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 14:04 UK

Call for 'action' on salt levels

Too much salt is linked to health problems

The food industry is being asked to do more to help reduce the public's salt consumption.

The falls seen in salt intake in recent years are saving 6,000 lives a year.

But the Food Standards Agency and campaigners said there was still a long way to go before salt intake was at the recommended level.

The regulator has set industry new "challenging" targets to cut salt levels in food, but retailers warned they would be hard to hit.

Adults in the UK currently consume 8.6g of salt daily - down nearly 1g since 2001, but still well short of the 6g target.

Experts believe if people consumed the recommended level another 20,000 lives could be saved through lower blood pressure rates.

Bacon - From 3.5g per 100g now to 3g in 2012
Tomato ketchup - From 2.4g to 1.8g
Burgers - From 1g to 0.75g
Bread 1.1g to 1g
Crisps - 1.5g to 1.4g

In recent years, the FSA has targeted manufacturers as well as running public health campaigns.

About three quarters of salt that is consumed is already present in food when it is bought.

Targets were already in place for 2010 and these have led to significant cuts in salt levels in bread, breakfast cereals and soups.

But the FSA has now pushed industry to go further by setting new targets for 2012 covering 80 different categories of processed food.

The scale of the cuts varies from product to product, but include a salt cut of nearly 10% in bread, more than a fifth in baked beans and 25% in burgers.

Rosemary Hignett, the FSA's head of nutrition, said: "The public health cases for reducing the amount of salt in people's diet is as strong as ever."

'Snail's pace'

But Alex Callaghan, policy officer at the British Heart Foundation, said: "We are still moving at a snail's pace.

"At the current rate of reduction, it would take us 15 years to reach the 6g per day target, putting another generation at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

"Food manufacturers must step up to the plate and do all that they can to reduce the vast amounts of salt we consume in everyday products, such as cereals and ready meals."

Retailers said they would be doing everything they could to hit the new targets, but they warned it would not be easy.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: "The new salt targets are much harder and, in some cases, we believe customers won't accept the change in taste.

"It's crucial we take customers with us as tastes don't change overnight.

"Salt can also play an important part in preserving food.

"It would be perverse if we reduced salt to the extent that it reduced a product's shelf life and increased food waste - compromising a key part of the government's food policy."

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Medical News Today Agency Publishes 2012 Salt Reduction Targets - 6 hrs ago 19th May 2009 - 9 hrs ago
Food Quality News UK unveils new salt reduction targets - 17 hrs ago
Mail Online UK Food makers ordered to slash salt levels by up to 40% - 36 hrs ago
The Scotsman Salt levels to be cut in hundreds of foods - 38 hrs ago
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