New salt reduction targets published as part of FSA campaign to reduce salt in our diets
Tuesday 21 March 2006
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is today publishing voluntary salt reduction targets to further encourage food manufacturers and retailers to reduce the amount of salt in a wide range of processed foods.
Eating too much salt is a significant risk factor in developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure can triple the risk of heart disease and stroke and causes or contributes to more than 170,000 deaths a year in England.
At least 26 million people in the UK eat too much salt. The new salt reduction targets will help progress towards bringing down the average UK salt intake to 6g a day.
The reduction targets apply to salt levels in the 85 food categories that contribute most to the amount of salt in our diet. These include everyday foods such as bread, meat products and cereal products, and convenience products like pizza, ready meals, savoury snacks and cakes and pastries. Processed foods contribute around 75% of salt to the diet.
The Agency has acted independently and taken an open and consultative approach to setting final targets.
This includes consulting with over 250 different organisations, including a wide range of consumer groups, public health bodies, academics and independent food technologists, as well as food manufacturers and retailers.
The Agency is encouraged by the steady progress on voluntary salt reductions by the industry to date, for example:
- Major retailers, including ASDA, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose have made good progress with salt reduction across a wide range of products
- The Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers has reduced the levels of salt in breakfast cereals by 33% since 1998
- The Federation of Bakers has cut the amount in bread by up to 30%
- Kraft has lowered the salt in its cheese spreads and snack products by around a third
- Members of the Food and Drink Federation have sought to reduce the salt in soups and sauces by 30%
Gill Fine, Director of Consumer Choice and Dietary Health said:
'Many consumers want to reduce their salt intakes to improve their health. To help make it easier for them we need manufacturers and retailers to continue their efforts to reduce the amount of salt they add to foods. We are pleased with the work that many parts of the industry have done to enable us all to reduce our salt intake. The guidelines we are launching today are the next step in the programme of salt reductions.
'Although challenging, we believe the salt levels set out represent a realistic rate of reduction which will have a real impact on consumers' intakes. We will review the targets in 2008, to ensure that progress continues to be made towards achieving the 6g maximum recommended salt intake.'
The Agency has received further commitments to long-term salt reduction programmes from a wide range of organisations across all sectors of the food industry and continues to support further research into new approaches to reducing salt levels in foods. Some organisations have already committed to going further and faster than the reduction targets.
Twenty million more adults say they are cutting down on salt since the start of the Agency's salt awareness campaign in September 20041, while more than half of all consumers (53%) say they are now checking food labels for salt2.
Most people who are cutting back on salt say they have reduced the amount of salt they add to their food at the table or when cooking and sales of household salt have already dropped by 10% in a year.3
The Agency is currently in the process of developing the next phase of its salt awareness campaign to build on the success of previous stages.
1) Agency Tracking Research, Aug 2004 - Dec 2005
2) 2005 FSA Consumer Attitudes Survey
3) Since 2003 the Agency has been working to raise awareness of the risks of eating too much salt. Research published by Mintel in September 2005 shows that increasingly people are turning to black pepper, herbs and spices, instead of salt to add flavour to their food.
Retail sales of salt:
2003 - £23m
2004 - £22m
2005 - £20m
Industry was consulted extensively in the development of the reduction levels, which were subject to a public consultation in August 2005. Seventy-four responses were received from a wide range of stakeholders. The responses included comments that covered all aspects of the work to set salt targets.
Progress towards the maximum recommended salt intake of 6g a day by 2010 will be reviewed in 2008 in light of independent assessments of the potential for salt reduction, ongoing research, and the results of urinary monitoring, which will give the Agency an accurate measure of the amount of salt in people's diets. This review will be carried out in close consultation with stakeholders.
Work to develop a framework for self-reporting will continue in consultation with stakeholders following publication of the salt reduction targets.
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