Food safety could be put at risk by squeezing salt reduction targets further, it was revealed, as sandwich makers and bakery manufacturers dug their trenches over "unachievable" proposals to slash salt in food.
For the first time, all the lea-ding food associations, including the Food & Drink Federation (FDF), British Sandwich Asso-ciation (BSA) and Federation of Bakers have co-ordinated a joint approach to fighting the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) proposals to cut 2010 salt targets again by 2012, with crunch talks planned for late November/early December with the FSA.
"There is overwhelming evidence that there could be serious food safety risks in setting the new targets," said Jim Winship, director of the BSA. He criticised the FSA for not undertaking a full risk assessment before outlining its revised targets for consultation. "There are concerns over shelf-life and even botulism coming back in the UK, particularly in ham and bacon."
The FSA failed to address salt levels in ingredients before announcing its plans, which would make a raft of products "unachievable", he added.
The FDF responded to the consultation by slamming the 2012 targets as "hypothetically generated to try and shoe-horn the achievement of a net daily salt intake of no more than 6g". The introduction of maximum salt levels, rather than average levels, was cited as "unrealistic and overly restrictive".
The Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers (abim) added that the sodium content in raising agents alongside salt meant that cutting sodium in products such as crumpets and scones was again "unachievable". A National Association of Master Bakers spokesman said it was embar-king on a project with the FSA to help craft bakers reduce salt.
Meanwhile, pressure has been mounting on independent sandwich retailers to cut salt and offer clearer labelling. The BSA has met with major sandwich produ-cers, including Greggs and Subway, to lobby the FSA. "We have discussed what is and isn’t practical, and come up with a way forward, which involves not dictating how to label products," said Winship. "It’s important to give customers the information."
Last week, Subway introduced nutritional information at counters across its 1,300-plus UK and Ireland outlets, featuring the salt content of food. A Subway spokesman said: "The change is designed to provide our customers with greater nutrition information, without overloading them."
=== Media salt scares ===
Many croissants, pastries and muffins were found to contain more salt than a rasher of bacon, claimed Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), which looked at more than 200 food items. It revealed that Starbucks’ Cinnamon Swirl contained 1.74g of salt - the equivalent of two rashers of bacon. In addition, certain American-style muffins were found to have more salt than a standard bag of crisps; Costa’s Raspberry and White Chocolate muffin contained as much salt as three bags.