U.K. Demands Cut in Salt Levels

May 18/London/Daily Mail --Big brands are in the firing line from the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) tough salt-reduction targets, including Kellogg's corn flakes. Health campaigners claim that more than 7,000 people are dying earlier than necessary each year because they eat too much salt. Average daily salt consumption is 8.6g. The recommended daily limit is 6g.

However, manufacturers, including the Federation of Bakers, argue that the public is not prepared to accept the change in taste that will result from using less salt. They also claim that salt operates as a useful preservative. The FSA has published salt-reduction targets for 2012, concentrating on bread, meat products, breakfast cereals and convenience foods.

Kellogg's corn flakes have 1.75g of salt per 100g. The FSA say this should come down by 42% to a maximum of 1g.

Heinz tomato ketchup, which contains 2.25g of salt per 100g, will have to have no more than 1.83g by 2012.

The salt-reduction target for shopbought sandwiches is between 25-30%, depending on the filling.

The FSA is looking for a 42% reduction in the salt level in crumpets, bagels and croissants and a 9% cut on bread. Salt in mature cheddar cheese, which gives it much of the flavor, should come down by just under 8%.

The salt maximum for burgers has been cut by 25% and for sausages by 20%.

Further reductions on butter, chips, snacks and breakfast cereals are also being demanded.

Rosemary Hignett, of the FSA, said, "To continue to make progress, we have set 2012 targets at levels that will make a further real impact on consumers' intakes, while taking into account technical and safety issues associated with taking salt out of food."

Stephen Robertson, of the British Retail Consortium, said, "Our members are Europe's leaders in salt reduction and have made fantastic progress in the last decade.

"But the new salt targets are much harder, and in some cases, we believe customers won't accept the change in taste."

Gordon Polson, of the Federation of Bakers, said it could be "technically impossible" for the industry to deliver further reductions "without compromising taste or quality."

However, Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and chairman of the salt reduction lobbying group CASH, insists more must be done.

He said, "It's sad to see that some bakers and ham and bacon producers are not prepared to lower the salt content of their products, and we can only speculate that this is for commercial reasons. Is it really worth thousands of lives?"

From the May 26, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition