FSA's salt targetsWhich? welcomes new FSA target levels

22 March 2006

Which? has welcomed government moves to further cut the amount of salt in food - but we want levels kept under close review.

The (FSA) has published the first guideline targets for salt levels in bread, crisps, cereals, ready meals and other foods. The watchdog wants manufacturers to meet the targets, but they are voluntary.

Which? Chief Policy Adviser Sue Davies said:'We hope that industry will continue to work to reduce salt levels in foods given the clear public health benefits. However, it's important that the FSA routinely monitors and reviews progress in implementing the targets as well as the salt targets themselves.

'Consumers are becoming more aware about the health benefits of eating less salt and tastes are changing, so it may be possible to bring down the levels of salt in food even further.'

Salt and high blood pressure

Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which can triple the risk of suffering a stroke and heart disease. Salt causes or contributes to more than 170,000 deaths a year in England alone.

At least 26 million people in the UK are eating more than the recommended 6g of salt per day and processed foods contribute about 75 per cent of the salt in our diets.

Some lobby groups have slated the new targets as not low enough, but Which? believes that going too far initially could put people off their food. However, there may be potential later to reduce salt, as people get used to eating less of it.

Some of the targets, announced yesterday, are the same as those the FSA originally suggested; some are higher than the original version, and others are lower.

Salty foods

The reduction targets apply to salt levels in foods that are particularly salty, such as bread, bacon, ham, breakfast cereals and cheese, and convenience foods such as pizza, ready meals, savoury snacks, cakes and pastries.

Under the new targets, crisps, for example, should have 1.5g of salt per 100g - about 10 per cent less than the current level. The target for bacon is 3.5g of salt per 100g.

Salt campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) was disappointed with the targets. It said some snacks aimed at children would remain saltier than sea water even if the FSA targets were met.

Chairman Professor Graham MacGregor said: 'The power of the food industry is once again in evidence and the purely commercial interests of food companies have been allowed to prevail. Cash has repeatedly pointed out to both the FSA and industry that there are no reasons why salt content of foods cannot be reduced much further.'

The National Heart Forum, which campaigns to cut the factors that cause heart disease, was sceptical that some companies would comply with targets that were just voluntary.