Shake-up for salt use in processed food continues with UK food agency unveiling a new salt model to investigate the effects of reducing salt content in different food groups on consumers.
The move was largely inspired by the results of an independent body - the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) - in the UK last year that found increasing evidence for the link between high levels of salt in the diet and high blood pressure.
Consumer groups have long hounded the food industry to cut the salt content in processed foods. In the UK the British Heart Foundation launched a 'pinch of salt' consumer awareness campaign in July to tackle salt consumption and 'hidden salt' in processed foods.
"Many processed foods, such as baked beans contain high levels of 'hidden' salt. In fact, up to 85 per cent of a person's dietary salt intake comes from processed foods," said Belinda Linden, head of medical information at the British Heart Foundation.
According to figures from the SACN report, the recommended daily adult salt intake should be 6 grammes, but in fact the nation consumes about 9.5 grammes a day.
The salt model designed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is based on average sodium levels in foods within groups, weighted to take account of the different levels of consumption of different foods. From this starting point the model can be used to examine how changes in these average levels would impact on overall salt intakes in the population as a whole.
For illustrative purposes only at this stage 'target average' levels for different food groups have been modelled, which the agency estimates would bring consumption to about the 6g/day target. These levels are based on bringing the average sodium content of each group down to the lower end of the current range of sodium levels.
The food agency is keen to discuss the model and to grips on the issue with stakeholders, notably food manufacturers. Would you find a model like this a useful aid in discussing salt reduction strategies? Is the overall structuring right (should we, for example, attempt to sub-divide any of the food groups)? Are the values in the model a reasonable starting point for further work?, asks the FSA of the food industry.