Food firms agree salt aims in Ireland

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt, Salt intake, Food

Food makers in Ireland agree to reduce salt from food formulations
by 2010, the country's food agency announces this week.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said it has secured an agreement with a 'wide range of food companies and industry bodies' to support reductions that will lead to the 6 gramme a day target for consumers.

Bread should see a 10 per cent reduction by the end of 2005, says the FSAI, and breakfast cereals would involve a 20-30 per cent slice out (compared to 1998 levels) by the end of the year.

Makers of soups and sauces also agreed a 10 per cent salt reduction.

Condemned for contributing to the worsening health problems in the population, food makers are under orders to cut salt levels in their processed food formulations.

Eating too much salt is a significant risk factor in developing high blood pressure, itself a cause or contributing factor in the rising incidence of heart disease, the world's number one killer.

Recent figures from the UK's food agency claim that every day at least 26 million people eat more than the recommended daily limit of 6g of salt. Men are eating the most with a daily average of 11.0g of salt while women consume an average of 8.1g a day.

But targets published recently by Blair's government in the White Paper on Public Health say the food industry must contribute to reducing the salt intake of the population to 6g per person per day by 2010.

The government estimates that processed foods, from soups and sauces to breakfast cereals and snacks, contribute about 75 per cent to people's salt intakes.

"People are consuming too much salt and excessive sodium levels in the diet are estimated to contribute to 41 per cent of deaths annually from cardiovascular disease,"​ says Dr Wayne Anderson, chief food science specialist at FSAI.

While he claims 15 to 20 per cent of salt intake is through people adding salt to their food in the home, he is "adamant that food businesses have a central role to play to assist lower salt intake levels."

Dr Anderson highlighted that two food groups, meat/fish and bread, contribute over 50 per cent of salt intake from food. As a result, the FSAI "concentrated heavily"​ on seeking concrete salt reduction proposals from these food businesses in particular.

With reductions on the way, the food scientist warns that the food industry still needs to do more.

"While today's benchmark is a considerable development there needs to be additional solid commitments by the food industry to continue to decrease level of salt usage over the long term,"​ says Dr Anderson.

Details of individual food businesses' commitments to salt reductions are available at the FSAI.

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