Only Bread Rolls Are Likely to Meet Salt Reduction Targets in 2017

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Wednesday 22nd March 2017

A survey undertaken by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) suggests that only bread rolls will meet self-regulated targets to reduce salt in British diets.

The food industry therefore is set to miss almost every salt target set in the Public Health Responsibility Deal for Salt Reduction in 2017, with just one category out of 28 surveyed meeting the reduction targets.

The Deal for Salt Reduction targets were brought to the food industry to tackle what CASH describes as a “hidden killer” and have been set up by the Food Standards Agency, and sets targets for salt content per 100g across 28 different categories of food, which is then split into a total of 76 sub categories, to take into account that it is easier to reduce salt in some foods than others.

Despite this, nearly every food category will break these targets, and some particular products break the target by massive margins. Galaxy’s Ultimate Marshmallow Hot Chocolate for example has five times as much salt per 100g than the maximum target and is saltier than seawater or a bag of crisps.

Pressure is now being put on the government by action groups and supermarkets for Public Health England to not only ensure that 2017 targets are met but that the 2020 targets are made mandatory for the food industry.

Along with salty hot chocolate, CASH’s survey also found Aldi Fishmonger Piri Piri Smoked Mackeral Fillets had nearly 4g of salt per serving (two thirds of the guideline daily amount) and Baxter’s Cullen Skink salt.

Using the FoodSwitch UK app to measure the difference between similar shopping basket items, the difference between the saltiest and least salty shopping basket was 60 grammes, or roughly 130 bags of crisps.

Pre-packed salads are particularly bad for salt content, with a chicken and bacon pasta salad from Tesco containing two servings of 2.3g of salt each.

Public Health England were also strongly criticised for their issues with educating the public about salt consumption, with the Be Food Smart initiative rolling out at the start of 2017, too late to help this survey.

Part of the reason for the sheer amount of added salt is that salt works not only as a flavour enhancement agent but also a preservative, which allows processed foods to keep better, and probably why the variance between different food manufacturers exist. It also means that large amounts of food can be part of the most surprising food stuffs.

Much of the responsibility for the large amounts of salt in everyday items does come down to manufacturers. They have failed or are reluctant to reformulate products to use less salt where possible and as a result have harmed the effectiveness of a self-regulation system, which adds weight to the calls to force manufacturers to reduce salt levels.

There are obvious things that can be done to help, such as using food swap apps such as Be Food Smart and Foodswitch UK to find less salty alternatives, not adding any more salt to meals than is necessary, as well as sticking to smaller portions.