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Salt Reduction Reaching its Limit

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Salt Reduction Reaching its Limit

Salt Reduction Reaching its Limit
July 16
13:28 2012

An independent report examining ways of further reducing salt in foods has been published by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Food and Drink Federation (FDF). The project, undertaken by Leatherhead Food Research (LFR), set out to identify suitable techniques to reduce salt which would also address the related problems of products having a shorter shelf-life or lacking taste or texture. The report shows potential future methods exist but need either considerably more scientific development, including establishing their safety for consumption, or have yet to be tried in actual foods.

BRC and FDF members are all committed to on-going efforts to reduce salt in their foods wherever possible but, given the limited solutions identified in the report, in the future this is likely to mean salt reduction will be achieved through small changes to individual products rather than dramatic reductions across entire ranges.

With retailers and major brands reaching the limit of what they can do until there are further scientific advances, efforts to reduce salt consumption in theUKshould focus on:

* Encouraging companies not currently engaged in the Responsibility Deal to get involved.

* Spreading the successful approaches used by big name retailers and brands to smaller businesses, particularly within catering.

* Consumer education, such as encouraging people to use herbs and spices when cooking and to taste food at the table before adding salt.

British Retail Consortium deputy food director, Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, says: “The UK leads the world in salt reduction and we’re approaching the limit of what is currently possible. Producing foods with even less salt but which go off too quickly or lack flavour could simply result in consumers switching to higher salt products. That’s no solution.”

He adds: “Retailers take their commitment to public health extremely seriously and have invested their own money in this research specifically to look for new ways of doing even better on salt. There’s no arguing with the science though. Development of new techniques is going to take time and retailers will have to wait for those advances along with everybody else.”

Barbara Gallani, Food Safety and Science Director at the FDF, says: “We hope this report will be used both by our members and more broadly across the food industry. It has been sent to the Department of Health and the Chair and members of the Responsibility Deal Food Network to inform the next stages of the salt reduction work.”

Dr Paul Berryman, chief executive at Leatherhead Food Research, comments: “Salt reduction is very complex. Each product category presents different challenges because salt affects taste, texture, shelf life and food safety. Our research identified some exciting new techniques using mineral salts, potassium replacers, taste enhancers and clever manipulation of salt crystal size and position. These will assist food companies new to salt reduction.”

Dr Berryman continues: “However, Government should reconsider its discouragement of potassium replacers and give clear guidance on how companies can gain legal approval for novel approaches. Most importantly, we need a standard method to check that salt reduction does not compromise the safety and shelf life of the food. After all, salt is a natural preservative.”

The Government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal, launched inEnglandin March 2011, included a commitment to reduce salt levels by another 15 per cent by the end of 2012, compared with 2010. Signatories indicated that in some cases this would only be possible if new techniques were found to help preserve and flavour food.

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