The FOOD Standards Agency has bowed to pressure from food industry bodies including the Federation of Bakers with revised targets for salt content in foods including bread.
The new voluntary targets, published on Tuesday include 1.1g salt (or 430mg sodium) per 100g on pre-packed bread and rolls by 2010. Targets will be reviewed in 2008, in the light of industry progress.
All supermarket own-label bread, except that sold by Morrisons, is already below this target. Sainsbury’s leads the field with own label that boasts 0.8g per 100g salt content. Branded loaves are typically above the threshold at 1.25g salt per 100g.
The FSA’s original targets aimed to reduce daily salt intake to 6g. They were set in February 2005 and included a proposal that salt content in bread should be reduced to 0.9g salt per 100g by 2010. This target was put up to 1g of salt per 100g in a consultation that started last year. The Federation of Bakers counter proposals were 1.25g salt per 100g.
The new targets, which follow months of negotiation, are a “compromise we are not unhappy with”. Federation of Bakers director Gordon Polson told British Baker. The Federation is working with the FSA to provide average data to review progress against the new targets.
Gordon Polson said: “Although we are happy to be working with the FSA on this issue, the reduction of salt in bread thus far has been immensely challenging for the entire industry due to technical issues as salt plays such a critical role in dough formation.”
But anti-salt campaigner Professor Graham MacGregor accused bakers of “letting the British public down”, pointing out that bread is the main source of salt in the UK diet.
He told British Baker: “Bread [salt content] is hardly going to be reduced any further than it stands at the moment. Talk about technical constraints is pulling the wool over consumers’ eyes. These new targets will only result in an 8g daily salt intake for the average consumer.”
Professor MacGregor said the FSA is not to blame for the “erosion” of its original targets. He said: “The FSA has no power to legislate – only the Department of Health. It can only publish voluntary targets.”
The new targets, which apply to 85 food categories, have been “set as challenging levels that will have a real impact on consumers intakes", according to the FSA. They will help progress towards its target of bringing down average salt intakes to 6g a day, it said.