Salt levels in bread were put in the spotlight, with Sainsbury’s singled out for praise, at a Salt Awareness event in the House of Commons last week.

The event, timed to co-incide with Salt Awareness Week 2006, was organised by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) with speakers including health minister Caroline Flint and Food Standards Agency (FSA) chair Dame Deidre Hutton.

Dame Deirdre Hutton spoke of “tectonic plate cracking” as salt is reduced in food, praising Sainsbury’s for having achieved reduction targets on own-label sliced bread four years ahead of schedule. The supermarket’s own-label bread now has 0.8g salt per 100g, ahead of the FSA’s 2010 target of 0.9g.

Dame Deirdre Hutton commented: “We have been consulting on targets for salt levels in 2010 and recently I have heard that, in its sliced bread, Sainsbury’s has already reached that target.”

The Foods Standards Agency (FSA) is evaluating results of its latest advertising campaign, which flags up the message that daily intake of salt should not exceed 6g, she added. However, initial feedback was impressive. She said: “Awareness of the message has risen from a low base of 3% to 30% of the population. Marketing people in companies dream of that sort of hit. It is a very good start.”

Minister for Public Health Caroline Flint also encouraged the food industry to keep up its work in reducing salt, sugges-ting there is scope for further reductions. “There are some very good examples of what can be achieved,” she said. “We are in the ballpark now where the issue isn’t 100 reasons why you can’t do something, we have the evidence you can actually do something. In some of the most difficult areas, in terms of breads and so forth, some real changes have happened that I think we should acclaim and publicise.”

But anti-salt campaigner Professor Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at St George’s hospital, London, was less complimentary towards food manufacturers. He said: “The responsibility for reducing salt lies with the food industry; they put it in, they are killing many people in this country, they need to take it out. Many of them are trying to back-pedal on salt reduction, stating technical and taste issues. They are just trying to slow things down, and many people will die unnecessarily.”

The FSA will release its latest set of salt reduction targets for food manufacturers at the end of February or beginning of March, following a consultation period which started in August, Dame Deirdre Hutton told British Baker. It has yet to decide whether to run a third salt reduction advertising campaign.