Real progress in salt reduction, claims PepsiCo
salt, according to PepsiCo UK's president.
Salman Amin, who is also the UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF)'s chairman of the health and wellbeing steering group, was addressing the launch of the latest phase of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) salt awareness campaign earlier this week. "We support the FSA's work to encourage consumers to check salt levels in the foods they are buying, because the campaign complements the industry's ongoing efforts to reformulate products, extend consumer choice and introduce clearer labeling," he said. "I think most can agree that salt and sodium reduction is an area where industry, Government and the FSA have worked constructively together over a number of years towards a shared objective." Inded, Amin was adamant that industry has responded effectively to calls to reduce the amount of salt in processed food. "The fact that the FDF has recently restructure to create a Health and Wellbeing Steering Group, which is made up of senior colleagues from across the industry, should give you a sense of how seriously we take our responsibilities in this area," he said. "The aim of this group, which I chair, is to work constructively with government, regulators and others to help find solutions to the complex issues at the heart of the diet and health challenge here in the UK." Amin claimed that product reformulation is an area where the UK food industry has a strong track record. "When we surveyed our top members towards the end of 2005 - we found that 36 per cent of their products, worth £7.4bn at retail, had lower levels of salt compared with the year before. As well as reducing the salt content across the board, we found that companies were also launching lower salt and salt-free alternatives." Some groups however have questioned the success the food industry has had in reducing salt in processed food. For example, campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), while applauding the UK for leading the way on salt reduction, wants more to be done. The organisation recently urged consumers to boycott foods that still contain large and unnecessary amounts of added salt. It said that shoppers should not to buy products that contain either more than 1.25g of salt (0.5g of sodium) per 100g or more than 2.4g of salt per serving, and hopes that this will force manufacturers to take action and reformulate excessively salty foods. "If we halve our salt intake, i.e. make a reduction of 6g/day from the current intake of 10-12g, we will save approximately 70,000 people from developing strokes and heart attacks each year, 35,000 of which are fatal," said CASH chairman Graham MacGregor. Amin said that he was aware of the criticism that the food industry has not gone far enough. "Just let me say two short things about the speed at which food manufacturers move. First, the microbiological safety of food is key and there are some technical constraints that limit the speed of further progress. "Second, consumer acceptability is very important. A step-by-step approach to salt reduction is often necessary to ensure that palates can readjust and that consumers do not reject lower salt products. "The work on reducing salt levels in bread, breakfast cereals, snacks, soups and sauces shows how this approach can be successful. No-one I've met in the food industry is saying our work is complete, but it is encouraging to see commentators acknowledge progress."