Salt levels are higher in out of home food products than those sold in retail according to the first assessment of the food industry’s progress towards meeting the government’s salt reduction targets.
Average and maximum targets covering 28 food categories including bread, crisps and ready meals were set back in 2014 and the first assessment, which measures progress up until 2017, was published by Public Health England (PHE) just before Christmas.
The analysis, which is based on commercial data, found that just over half of all average salt reduction targets were met, with retailers making more progress than manufacturers.
Although targets were met in nine categories including breakfast cereals and baked beans, meat products met none of the targets.
The out of home sector was set additional maximum per-serving targets in 11 food categories, including sandwiches, pasta dishes, and children’s meals. Despite finding that seven in 10 foods did not exceed maximum targets, the report assessed that salt levels are generally higher in out of home products compared to in-home.
While salt reduction has been ongoing since 2006, progress towards meeting targets was previously self-reported by the food industry.
Average salt intake currently stands at 8g a day, 11% lower than in 2006 but still well below the recommended 6g a day.
“Too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure, which can cause heart disease and stroke – two of the biggest killers of adults in the UK – which is why government has set such stretching targets,” said Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE. “While we have seen some progress, those that have taken little or no action cannot be excused for their inactivity. It is clear that, with the right leadership from industry, further salt reduction in foods continues to be possible.”
The government has committed to setting out the next steps for salt reduction targets by Easter 2019.