Pressure on plant bakers to cut salt levels in their products is set to intensify next week, as charities join the campaign highligh-ting links between salt intake and health problems, including stomach cancer, osteoporosis, kidney disease and obesity.

Lobby group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has long publicised the increased risks of high blood pressure and stroke from a high-salt diet, with bread a regular target for criticism. But during Salt Awareness Week (February 1-7) the group plans to widen its focus to other headline-grabbing ailments linked to salt. For the first time, 10 leading charities including Cancer Research, the National Obesity Forum, Asthma UK, Diabetes UK and the National Osteoporosis Society are backing the campaign, along with previous supporters The British Heart Foundation and the Blood Pressure Association.

"By working with so many high-profile charities, we hope to raise awareness about the dangers of eating too much salt. This will put added pressure on manufacturers to cut sodium levels," said Katharine Jenner, nutritionist and CASH campaign manager. "Bread is still the largest contributor of salt to people’s diets and while some firms have taken huge steps to reduce salt levels, others lag behind. Unfortunately, this tends to be the major brands."

Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers, responded: "Plant bakers have met the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) 2010 salt targets and are looking to reduce salt further. CASH is choosing to ignore research, which has been accepted by the FSA, that reducing salt levels further is technically very challenging for premium breads."

As part of National Salt Awareness Week, CASH is organising a lunchtime reception at the House of Commons on February 3, with speeches from Minister for Public Health Gillian Merron and Tim Smith, chief executive of the Food Standards Agency. CASH has also developed free posters and information leaflets for dietitians, nurses, health centres, gyms and schools.