High levels of salt intake are believed to be linked to high blood pressure, that can in turn lead to cardiovascular difficulties. Food makers in the UK have been under some pressure to adapt the formulation of food products to slash the content of the mineral.
Heinz said it will launch a 'Reduced Sugar & Salt' version of Heinz Baked Beans next month.It will be 50 per cent lower in salt than standard Heinz Baked Beans. Moving its products to below the government's 0.875 per cent target salt content has been reduced by 20 per cent in standard Heinz Baked Beans between 1999 and 2003, and are undergoing a further 15 per cent reduction.
The initiative is part of a long-term progressive programme of salt reduction that first started in 1986.
"To make it easy to see at a glance just how much salt a serving of any Heinz variety provides without having to do any sums, Heinz is also introducing 'salt equivalent' labelling on pack. This will improve consumer awareness about salt content in addition to the full nutrition information panel," a Heinz spokesperson told FoodNavigator.com.
This latest move forms part of a general shake-up in the food industry to cut the salt content. In May last year the UK's food industry body, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), launched an industry-wide programme to reduce salt - or more precisely sodium - in breakfast cereals, soups and sauces.
The industry committed itself to meeting a target of a 10 per cent reduction in sodium levels in ambient soups and sauces by the end of 2003. "Furthermore, and subject to consumer acceptance, it will push for further, similar reductions in this sector in 2004 and 2005,' the FDF said last year, stressing that the UK food and drink industry has already worked hard to cut sodium levels in these products over the last few years - salt levels in breakfast cereals have been cut by 16 per cent since 1998.
The UK's Food Standards Agency has also backed calls for a reduction in salt intake. In May 2003 a report from the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advocated a reduction in salt use.
"Consumers...cannot change the amount (of salt) in processed foods...which is the highest proportion of our salt intake. This is the clear responsibility of the (food) industry," Sir John Krebs, chairman of the UK's food safety body commented.
Consumer organisations in the UK who will have welcomed the Heinz move include CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) a group concerned with salt and its effects on health, currently working to reach a consensus with the food industry and government over the 'harmful effects of a high salt diet'. and the Consumers' Association.
UK-based food research organisation Leatherhead Food International (LFI) announced in November 2003 that it had set up a research project with a number of food industry partners to develop methods to reduce the level of salt in processed foods.
"The project kicks off later this month and will deliver a programme of work leading to practical steps to reduce salt intake, without destroying the sensory perception of our favourite foods," said the organisation.
According to Leatherhead, companies already on board for the project include Heinz, Northern Foods, Walkers, Scottish Food and Drink and Asda.