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Salt: FSA launches food-by-food strategy

22nd October, 2003

In a remarkable challenge to the food industry, the government's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has told manufacturers it wants to see 50% of the salt cut from bacon and ham, 60% cut from sauces and 80% cut from canned vegetables.

Heinz pastaThe Food Standards Agency recently set maximum recommended intakes for salt for children. A can of Heinz Teletubbies Pasta Shapes with Sausages should ideally provide no more than a third of a young child's daily intake, which is 0.66g of salt. But a single can provides nearly four times that amount!

A total of 48 food categories are given target reduction levels in the FSA proposal, with an average salt reduction target of 32%. It is the first time any government agency in the world has specified the compositional standards for the salt content of such a broad range of processed foods, and represents the first major step by the FSA towards becoming a serious player in public health nutrition policy.

The salt composition proposals come in a mildly-worded consultation letter sent to some 35 industry and non-governmental bodies, which asks that the proposals be seen only as a modelling exercise showing the amounts of salt that would need to be removed if the average diet were to meet the recommended target of just 6 grams of salt per day (adults).

But the document follows a stakeholder meeting which urged the FSA to consider setting compositional criteria for processed foods - and added that these could be set by voluntary agreement or by statutory regulation.

The threat of statutory regulation is a clear indication to food companies that they must start becoming part of the solution, not part of the problem. The proposals cover most food sectors, including take-away foods, ready meals, bread, pizza, snack foods, commercial soups, baked beans and burgers, although certain categories are given zero reduction targets because they contain little or no added salt.

The targets would be tougher still if industry were made to take full responsibility for ensuring that the population target salt consumption levels are met. In fact, the FSA model assumes that individuals will reduce the salt they add voluntarily by 40%.

The FSA's main targets
This table shows the food groups identified in the FSA model as needing to reduce the most salt if the target adult intake of 6 grams per day is to be achieved.
 
How much salt needs to go?
Pizza
50%
White bread
26%
Wholemeal bread
28%
Crumpets, muffins, granary
42%
Bought sandwiches
30%
Breakfast cereals
36%
Buns, pastries, cakes
30%
Cheese
29%
Egg dishes
31%
Fat spreads
45%
Bacon and ham
50%
Burgers and kebabs
40%
Sausages
43%
Meat pies
35%
Fish products
33%
Canned vegetables
81%
Baked beans
36%
Crisps and snacks
40%
Hot chocolate, Horlicks
68%
Soup
55%
Cook-in and pasta sauces
60%
Table sauces
34%
Meat ready meals
38%
Fish ready meals
33%
Take-away dishes (meat)
33%
Take away dishes (veg)
42%

 

Useful resources

Salt advice to parents will be hard to achieve (May 2003)
The Food Commission has warned that new government guidelines for reducing children’s salt consumption will be difficult for most parents to achieve without a significant reduction of salt in processed foods, and better food labelling.

Bread, crisps, beans & soup - as salty as ever (January 2003)
Despite food industry claims that they have been working for years to reduce the salt in processed food, a survey by the Food Commission shows that little has changed in 25 years

http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/saltmodel_consultation
The Food Standards Agency's model to examine the effects of reducing the average salt content of different food groups on the population's salt intake.