Baking sector responds to salt criticism

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt, Bread

The UK's Federation of Bakers has responded to criticism that the
sector has not done enough to meet food standard targets on salt
reduction.

According to a new survey from the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), over 35 per cent of commercial bread in the UK does not meet FSA targets for salt levels. But Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers, claims that the sector has made significant progress given the challenges that salt reduction presents. "Since November 2005, when the baking industry announced its plans to reduce salt in bread, the industry has made significant strides in meeting the targets agreed with the FSA,"​ he said. "Although our members are happy to be working with the FSA on this issue, the reduction of salt in bread thus far has been immensely challenging for the entire industry as salt plays such a critical role in dough formation."It is widely recognised that any change that may diminish the flavour would be counterproductive to the objective of improving diets as it is acknowledged that bread plays an important role in a healthy, balanced diet." ​ Pressure groups such as CASH​ however believe that more could be done. It claims to have looked at the salt content of 138 loaves of wrapped bread commercially available in UK supermarkets and found that 36 per cent contained more than 1.1 grams of salt per 100g - the target salt level for bread set by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). "Much work has been done over the years to reduce the salt that is added to our bread, but we want all breads to contain as little salt as possible,"​ said Graham MacGregor, chairman of CASH and professor of cardiovascular medicine. "It's clear that bread can be produced with lower levels of salt with no effect on sales. So why are the other bakers not cutting salt further?"​ Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, and remains a vitally important compound in food manufacturing in terms of taste and preservation. But CASH considers the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, far too high. The pressure has been mounting on food manufacturers to reduce the salt content of their foods and the UK's food standards agency (FSA) recommendation of six grams of salt per day for the general population is understood to be more a realistic target for the next five years than the ideal healthy limit. "Bread is the largest source of salt in the UK diet, so if the salt content of all the bread on sale in the UK was that of the lowest levels found in this survey - around 0.6g to 0.8g of salt per 100g - we could cut the average population daily intake of salt by around 1g,"​ said MacGregor. The Federation of Bakers however remains convinced that good progress has been made in cooperation with the FSA. The organisation entered into discussions with the agency to establish an acceptable target for salt reduction by 2010, which was agreed at 0.43g sodium per 100 grammes to be achieved by that date. "There has already been a 10 per cent reduction in the two years to the end of 2005, and a further reductions will be made to meet the 2010 target,"​ said Polson. "The Federation will continue to work with the FSA to monitor progress towards this target, in particular a review scheduled for 2008."

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