Many UK biscuit and cake products have reached their salt-reduction limit, thanks to bakers' efforts to cut salt components, according to Barbara Gallani, manager of the Food and Drink Federation's Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery section (BCCC).
Speaking at the CAOBISCO's conference in Brussels yesterday, Gallani said: "Many UK biscuits and cakes are now at their limit regarding salt reduction, both technically and in terms of taste and texture." (CAOBISCO is the European trade body for the biscuit and confectionery industry).
"UK manufacturers have reduced salt in each product category, with overall reductions of between 16 and 50 per cent since February 2006 in some of the most popular brands of cakes and biscuits. This is in addition to the 20-40 per cent reductions achieved previously."
The ability to reformulate and reduce salt content varies from product to product because recipes vary in their salt content, said Gallani. Salt reduction has been an important aim of producers in the bakery and snacks business, in response to consumer concerns and pressure from regulatory authorities. Average daily salt consumption in the western world, of between 10 and 12g, is considered far too high by experts and can lead to a greater risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has deemed reducing consumption to 6g per day for adults to be a realistic target for the next five years. The FSA also confirms that 75 per cent of salt consumed is contained in the food we buy so consumers should check food labels for salt levels in order to choose the healthiest options.
Salt reduction targets and achievements
Gallani said that considerable progress had been make towards achieving, and in some cases surpassing, the FSA's voluntary salt reduction targets published in 2006. The targets, covering 85 categories of processed foods including bread, savoury snacks, biscuits, cakes and pastries, identified the type of food that needed salt reduction.
For example, for filled sweet biscuits, the FSA proposed the targets of 0.7g salt or 280mg of sodium (maximum) per 100g food as sold by 2010 and a final target of 0.5g salt or 205mg sodium (average) per 100g.
FDF figures confirm that the actual sales weighted average figures were 0.6g salt and 220mg sodium per 100g food in February 2006 and by March 2007, 0.3g salt and 140mg sodium. So there has been a 50 per cent reduction in salt and a 36 per cent reduction in sodium over the period.
"Much of the added salt has now been removed, with only that absolutely necessary remaining. This is why the salt/sodium reduction task now becomes very difficult, as it is inherent sodium (mainly from ingredients) that would have to be removed," said Gallani.