Salt. It’s a word that has arguably been demonised in recent years, but is an ingredient we cannot survive without.
While it is recommended we can eat no more than six grams of salt per day, we can have six grams per day. Whether that comes from bread, a packet of crisps, or a ready meal – whatever the combination – surely it matters most that we’re getting a balanced diet, in which, in my opinion at least, bread is a factor.
A huge number of bakeries have worked hard, and spent a lot of time and money, making changes to both recipes and production techniques to ensure consumers are getting a lower salt intake from their baked goods. According to the Department of Health (DoH), the level of salt in bread has been slashed by 40% since the 1980s, with 10% of that reduction coming in just the past three years – a huge achievement. Hopefully, in the coming years, this will be evident in the overall health of the nation.
However as the DoH is now poised to review the existing targets, with the possibility of making them tougher, I do feel for bakers who, above all, value the taste and quality of their products – something that is at risk if levels are significantly reduced again. My own mother has even stopped buying certain loaves because she says she can tell the salt in them has been reduced and they are now too bland to eat.
While I agree it is important that consumers do not exceed recommended daily allowances, I can’t help thinking all this work could very well go to waste if the consumer, upon finding their loaf lacking in flavour, smothers it with salted butter, or grinds a little extra salt on their evening meal to make up for its earlier removal. Salt helps to bring the flavour out of other ingredients and, having experienced the culinary efforts of those who think it is better to cook pasta in unsalted water, for example, flavourless food is not even worth eating.
Let’s hope the DoH recognises the efforts the baking industry has already made and, instead of setting even stricter targets for salt reduction in bread, focuses its attention on educating the public. I don’t believe a lot of consumers are aware of the ‘hidden’ salt in certain foods, and by educating them about the food they eat and what’s in it, they can still eat tasty meals as part of a healthy balanced diet.