By Patrick McGuigan
The publication of 2012 salt reduction targets this week failed to satisfy either side of the salt-in-bread debate, with anti-salt cam- paigners slamming them for being too lenient and plant bakers arguing that they will be "tech-nically impossible" to meet.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has set a 2012 salt target of 1g per 100g for bread and rolls - a level that is lower than the 2010 target of 1.1g, but not as tough as the 0.93g first suggested in the FSA’s recent consultation.
Lobby group Consensus Action on Salt (CASH), which proposed a target of 0.75g, blasted the FSA’s decision. It argued that the difference between its proposal and the FSA’s target equated to 2,800 extra lives that could be saved each year through a reduction in the number of people killed by strokes linked to a high salt diet. This, it said, was the equivalent of "eight jumbo jets crashing and killing all on board every year".
"It’s sad to see that some bakers are not prepared to lower the salt content of their products and we can only speculate that this is for commercial reasons. Is it really worth thousands of lives?" said CASH founder Professor Graham MacGregor. "If Sainsbury’s can make and sell bread with 0.7g of salt per 100g (300mg sodium), why can’t brands such as Hovis, Warbur-ton’s and Kingsmill?"
Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers (FoB), said own-label bread was "a very different product" to branded bread, and direct comparisons could not be made. He added that some bakers would be unlikely to meet the new 2012 targets.
"The Federation of Bakers... is concerned that it is technically impossible for the industry to go beyond the 2010 target of 430mg sodium per 100g to 400mg by 2012," he said. "Bakers have invested in ingredients and plant, but to take the next step we need a different solution. It’s not clear how, using the Chorleywood Bread Process, we can reduce salt further." He said the FoB would continue to reasearch ways of reducing salt in conjunction with the FSA.
The 2012 targets may provide an unexpected opportunity for craft bakers, who can adapt their processes more easily to compensate for reductions in salt. Craft baker Anthony Kindred has been working with the FSA and the National Association of Master Bakers on ways to reduce salt in craft bread. He is confident that craft bakers will be able to meet the 2012 targets by using longer fermentation times to offset lower salt levels (see pg 8).