Dr Susan Jebb, chair of the food network talks about the good progress on salt reduction

Susan JebbI was delighted to see the continuing decline in the average amount of salt we’re eating in England from the 2011 urinary salt survey – down a further 0.5g since the last survey in 2008 to 8.1g a day. It shows clearly that the huge effort by the food industry to reformulate products to reduce salt is paying off, with real benefits for public health.

77 businesses have signed up to the Responsibility Deal 2012 salt reduction targets, but we still have a long way to go if we are to realise our goal of no more than 6g salt a day. To accelerate our progress we have today launched three new salt pledges, specifically focused on the catering sector, to encourage more companies to make their commitment to improving public health through salt reduction.

With one in six meals eaten outside the home the catering sector has a vital role to play.  The three pledges, which focus on training and kitchen practice, reformulation and procurement, are tailored to the diverse business models in this sector and give every business the opportunity to go further and faster in reducing salt in the food we eat outside the home. These pledges commit companies to a 15 per cent reduction in salt used in their kitchens, ensuring at least 50 per cent of the products they procure meet the 2012 targets (and increasing further over time) and/or reformulating the dishes they serve to their customers to cut salt – prioritising those which currently make the greatest contribution to salt intake.

We don’t expect all businesses to sign up to all three pledges, but to select those which are relevant to their business model. And businesses that have signed up to the original salt reduction pledge to meet the 2012 salt targets will not be signing up to the procurement pledge, as they have already committed to work towards these targets.

I am very pleased that 15 companies are leading the way today, representing quick service restaurants, cafes, pub chains, contract caterers and catering suppliers. Many of these companies have started work already and these new pledges will add momentum to this work, foster innovation and spread best practice across the industry. But if we are to maximise progress, every business needs to play its full part and I am looking to other key organisations in this sector to pledge their support.

Salt reduction will remain a priority for the Responsibility Deal for the foreseeable future. It is clear from the progress so far that reformulation is a highly effective strategy and must continue, indeed it is being copied around the world. But reformulation alone will not maximise the progress we need to make and the Food Network is looking to develop a holistic programme of work beyond 2012.

We have come along way since the launch of the salt reduction campaign in 2005, but have much more to do. It’s hard for consumers alone to reduce their salt intake and it’s hard for food businesses to cut salt without the support of their customers. This Autumn, the Secretary of State for Health, will be chairing a Round Table discussion with industry, consumer groups and public health figures to consider what more can be done. It’s essential we continue to work together to prevent many thousands of premature deaths each year from stroke and other conditions linked to eating too much salt.

Early signatories to the Salt Catering pledges

Pledge F5(a). Training and Kitchen Practice

BaxterStorey, Brookwood Partners, DC Leisure, Lexington Catering, Nestle, Olive Catering Services Ltd, KFC UKI and Mitchell & Butlers Plc

Pledge F5(b). Reformulation of products as purchased by the customer

Domino’s Pizza Group Ltd, Nestle, Pret A Manger, JD Wetherspoons Plc, KFC UKI, Brakes, Mitchell & Butlers Plc

Pledge F5(c). Procurement

3663, BaxterStorey, DC Leisure, Mitie Catering Services Ltd, McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd

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