A new survey has revealed salt in bread declined by around 20% between 2001 and 2012 and that own-label bread was lower in salt levels than branded.

Researchers examined 40 products in 2001, and 203 in 2011, for the study by the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London.

Salt levels in packaged bread in supermarkets across the UK fell around a fifth from 1.23g per 100g in 2001, to 0.98g per 100g in 2011, according to findings that were published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Overall, the number of products meeting the Department of Health’s 2012 target - of less than or equal to 1g of salt per 100g - rose from under a third in 2001 to almost three-quarters in 2011.

Experts say bread is the biggest contributor of dietary salt in the UK, providing almost a fifth of the total derived from processed foods. The recommended daily intake for UK adults is a maximum of 6g, compared with the current average of 8.1g a day.

However, the Federation of Bakers (FoB) told British Baker the latest survey was “already out of date”.

In a statement, it said: “2012 targets have now been met across all branded bread produced by Federation of Bakers members. The further good work carried out by the bread industry in reducing the levels of salt has been acknowledged by Department of Health. 100g of branded sliced bread now contains just 0.4g of sodium (1g of salt) with the contribution of salt in bread to the diet estimated to be just 12%. Since 2004 there has been a 27% reduction of salt in branded bread.”

At its conference earlier this year, Alex Mayfield, operations director at Warburtons and chairman of the FoB, called on the Department of Health (DoH) to look elsewhere when setting new salt targets. The DoH is due to revisit its targets this summer.

Richard Ciencala, deputy director for health and well-being at the DoH, told attendees at the FoB conference a series of round tables would begin soon with all stakeholders. He said there would be some “opportunities” for future progress, along with some “barriers”, but the department would steer clear of “demonising” a particular food.