THE GOVERNMENT says that more companies in the catering and take-away sectors must commit to cutting salt from their meals.
Launching a new drive to cut salt consumption by 25%, public health minister Anna Soubry said the voluntary approach is working, but she wanted more caterers commit to the salt reduction pledges within the public health responsibility deal.
Soubry’s comments came as she launched a new “Salt Strategy” outlining how the Department of Health will help people reduce their daily intake from an average of 8.1g a day towards the 6g a day goal.
Research figures show that more than half the public (53%) rarely or never consider the amount of salt when buying food, despite more than four in five people (86%) knowing too much salt is bad for their health.
"The UK is world-leading in salt reduction but more needs to be done to reach [that 6g] goal,” said Soubry.“Currently, 90 companies have signed up to make salt reduction a priority, and we want to see real action from many more."
Some food campaigners have suggested the deal is not working, and have called for more regulation. However, according to the government, over 70% of the retail market and over half of the major high street and contract caterers are committed to further reductions in salt in over 80 categories of foods. Last year, three new salt pledges were introduced for the catering sector. The new pledges, developed by the British Hospitality Association (BHA), focus on procurement of salt to meet the salt targets of 2012, changing kitchen practices and training and reformulation of the final meal on the plate. The new salt strategy will move the government’s work on salt to the next level and it will be “pushing the catering and take away sector to do more – by setting new maximum targets for the most popular dishes such as sandwiches and chips”. The 2012 salt targets will also be revised by the end of the year to encourage companies to reformulate recipes.
Those in foodservice and hospitality have been quick to support the new strategy – which arrives during salt awareness week.
Mick Hickman, foodservice director at Compass Group, which removed eight tonnes of salt from its supply chain by reducing the size of its salt sachets, said: “We fully support the government’s responsibility deal and the Food Network pledge to reduce salt consumption. We have been working hard to reduce salt levels in our food [and] through our Know Your Food education programme, we have also highlighted the importance of salt reduction to our millions of customers.
“We continue to work actively with our suppliers to further reduce salt levels and we have embedded health and wellbeing into our chef training programme which includes a dedicated focus on decreasing the amount of salt used.”
Meanwhile, the Local Authority Catering Association highlighted the work being done to cut salt levels in school meals, and urged the government to ensure that the current standards applied to all schools. A spokeswoman said: “Education catering providers have to abide by strict requirements for salt content in school meals as specified within the Nutrient Standards which became law for all state maintained schools in 2008/9. This is another example of why one set of standards should apply to all schools to ensure that all children and young people in school can benefit from the measures being taken to improve their long term health.”