10 February, 2006
There is no doubt about it. The supermarkets really are leading the bakery market when it comes to lowering salt levels in bread, and Sainsbury’s is right at the helm.
The company was lauded and applauded in the House of Commons last week by Dame Deirdre Hutton, head of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), for already having lowered salt levels in own-label sliced bread. It has done this four years ahead of target.It is also proving successful at getting real flavour into its own ‘Taste the Difference’ range – not with salt, but with a sour blend that is going down really well with customers.Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King’s own grandfather was a craft baker, and anyone who attended the Baking Industry Summit recently will know just how passionate he was about bread. It is translating through to the goods on the shelves. He also showed that he listens to health experts.Years ago, most bakers considered salt levels to be a tetchy subject, which they would rather not address. How far we have travelled.When salt levels in food first became a subject of debate in the national press, 3% of consumers took note.Then evidence began to be produced by Professor Graham MacGregor of Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH)). Now, after a significant increase in press coverage and the fact that the FSA itself is on board, and has even pioneered two advertising campaigns, that 3% awareness has risen to 30%, and the figure is climbing. Why is salt reduction in our foods and our daily intake so important? The answer is because we need 1.6g daily. We can tolerate 6g daily, but many of us are consuming between 9g and 18g daily.This is leading to a proliferation of high blood pressure and its consequences – heart disease and strokes. The NHS is short of funds and is spending a fortune treating heart disease and stroke victims, whose illnesses are often long-term.The supermarkets want to be seen as responsible vendors. They are putting pressure on the plant bakers, and craft bakers will need to follow suit.So we must all allow three weeks or so for our taste buds to adapt to less salt, which they do. And adding a bit more lemon or herbs to our foods, or putting delicious sours in our breads, never did anyone any harm.