Dr Wayne Anderson, chief specialist, food science at the FSAI, said he was pleased with the progress that has been made so far, but warned against complacency, saying the industry still has a long way to go.
"Food businesses have a central role to play to assist lower salt intake levels amongst Irish people and we are very pleased at the level of support the industry has given this initiative to date. We would however, maintain that whilst considerable achievements have been made, more is required.
There needs to be solid commitments by the food industry to continue to decrease level of salt usage over the long term, and we want to expand the focus of the programme, which to date has been on core food products meat/fish, bread, cereals and soups/sauces, to encompass other foods such as prepared sandwiches, milk products etc.," said Dr Anderson.
The FSAI's initiated national salt reduction policy is aimed at reducing average daily salt intake by Irish adults to 6 grams by 2010.
And the progress so far suggests that these targets will be met, said the FSAI.
The reductions, which so far have the active participation of up to 65 food manufacturers, retailers, caterers, and representative bodies, spans meat, bakery, soups and sauces.
The Irish meat industry is reported to have achieved its undertakings for 2005 with a range of salt reductions across bacon, sausage, cooked hams, gammon steaks, puddings and burger products. Further salt reductions in these products requires research, said FSAI, to ensure food safety is not compromised.
The next targets include reducing the sodium levels in sausages to 0.75g per 100g by June 2007.
For bakery products, white and brown bread brands are reported to have reduced salt content by 10 per cent since 2004 and now contain less than 1.14g salt per 100g. Some manufacturers are reported to have extended their salt reduction work across all bread lines, and the FSAI report that the first salt reduction in soda bread was achieved by one manufacturer.
Salt levels in breakfast cereals are said to have been reduced by 11 per cent since 2003.
Soup and sauce salt levels have been reduced by 10 per cent since 2003, with an additional five per cent reduction recommended in dry sauces and meal makers by mid-2007.
Dr. Anderson said that is was encouraging to active participation by manufacturers, and acknowledged the research and development, and technical adaptations that still lay ahead.
The FSAI also appreciates the business implications of the necessary R&D investments and Anderson said the Authority would continue to work with industry on realistic long term planning.
"Salt has an important role in the diet, but consumption levels are simply too high and currently pose a serious health threat. Just one teaspoon less of salt per person per day could have a very favourable influence on public health, and the food industry is in a powerful position to assist that change.
"We are optimistic that real change can, and will be achieved, with the continued support of the industry, to reduce overall salt intake in the average daily diet in Ireland," said Anderson.