Salt targets review

To maintain momentum on salt reduction the food network published, in March 2013, a strategy for action beyond 2012.

The strategy included details of future work in four areas:

  • reformulation;
  • further activity by the catering sector;
  • behaviour change; and
  • broadening sign up to salt reduction.

Work to review the current salt targets was included in the reformulation part of the strategy.

Background

Reducing salt consumption is an important factor in helping to tackle avoidable premature mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke. Over the last decade salt consumption has been declining steadily (around 15% overall) with around a half gram reduction between 2008-2011. Salt levels in many of our foods have reduced significantly, some by 40-50% or more, and since 2007 more than 11 million kilograms of salt have been removed from the foods covered by the salt reduction targets. However, average salt consumption remains high at around 8.1g/day (2011) so there is still a long way to go to meet the 6g/day population intake goal.

Since the Responsibility Deal was established in March 2011 partners have been working to achieve the 2012 salt targets as part of the F2 Salt Reduction pledge. The targets specify salt levels for the 80 categories of food that contribute most to salt intakes and were to be achieved by the end of 2012. The targets have been set as maxima, sales weighted averages (with or without a maximum limit) and process averages.

The main aims of the review are to obtain intelligence on business’ progress to date towards achieving the 2012 targets, any remaining or new technical issues that apply and what future salt reduction may be possible. This will then be considered together with the DH analysis of the current state of play for each category with a view to revising the target figures to promote further salt reduction where possible. In addition, as well as looking at existing categories, a new target will be set for meat extracts (gravy, stock cubes, bouillon etc).

A document outlining the background to the review is available.

Work to date

A series of meetings was held in June and July to discuss issues pertinent to revising the salt targets in a number of categories:

  • Meat products
  • Bread
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Fat spreads
  • Ready meals
  • Pizza
  • Soups
  • Sandwiches
  • Cooking sauces
  • Crisps and snacks
  • Table sauces

These categories were chosen as they are known to have technical issues and/or still contribute a significant amount to salt intakes. Considering these categories at this early stage of the process also allows time for follow up, where necessary.

As well as using the meetings as a forum to obtain information from attendees, at each meeting DH presented its analysis of the current state of play for each category.  Further details are given in the background paper.

Next steps for categories covered by the June/July meetings

The notes of these meetings are now available. Comments made at each meeting are unattributed to individual attendees or their businesses or organisation.

Interested parties are now invited to:

  • Review the notes of relevant meetings, to consider the issues discussed and the suggested revised figures for each target category.
  • Provide any comments on the issues raised and the suggested revised figures for each target category; and to provide any other additional information, including data on sodium/salt levels, that will help extend our understanding of the category.

Please submit your information in response to the following questions for each food category relevant to your company portfolio:

  • What level of salt reduction has your business achieved- e.g. the percentage reduction and what are the current salt levels in your products and/or across your portfolio (where possible as a sales weighted average)?
  • What further salt reductions would you consider realistic?
  • Are there particular products within a category that can reduce salt further than other products?
  • Are there any technical issues you have experienced whilst reducing salt and are there any further technical issues that are foreseeable with continued salt reduction?

Any comments, information or data should be sent to the following email address – saltandfat@dh.gsi.gov.uk – by 5pm on Monday 16 September. If you would like to respond but will not be able to meet this deadline please let us know as soon as possible.

We are not requesting comments on the meeting notes themselves. However, if attendees have any concerns about these notes it would be helpful if these could also be passed on.

Further work resulting from these meetings

There were a number of actions for DH officials to take forward following some meetings which are currently in progress. Some of these involve some further modelling work using DH’s data and reviewing the suggested revised figures proposed in the meetings. Once the work has been completed, the results of these further considerations will be posted here.

New product maxima

One of the commitments under the strategy, as part of the review, was to consider developing maximum salt targets for new products. The aim of these maxima was to help deliver change in the salt levels in the market in the long-term; and to provide an opportunity to encourage a change in consumers palates as they have different expectations about the taste profile of new products.

However, whilst there was support for the principle of new product maxima from some attendees, it became clear early on in the series of meetings that it may be difficult to set such targets for a number of reasons, particularly the challenge in identifying truly new products rather than variants on existing product lines. The decision was therefore taken to not discuss specific figures for these maxima at each meeting but to discuss the concept. The issues raised with setting such figures were similar for all product categories and are set out in each of the meeting notes.

Potassium-based salt replacers

Background information on the DH view on the use of potassium-based salt replacers, and current work to review this, are given in the background paper.

Should you wish to do so we would still welcome any information that businesses are willing to share on the following:

  • the types of potassium-containing ingredients (e.g. KCl, potassium bicarbonate etc.) that in principle you may wish to use in the future;
  • the food categories you would consider using these substances in;
  • the proposed/potential levels of usage (e.g.% substitutions, absolute increased potassium levels in products);
  • any development work that you may have conducted.

Any comments, information or data should be sent to the following email address – saltandfat@dh.gsi.gov.uk – by 5pm on Monday 16 September. If you would like to respond but will not be able to meet this deadline please let us know as soon as possible.

Next steps for categories not yet covered and the overall review process

It is important to note that the work to date, and the category meetings held so far, are just the first part of the process to review, and revise where possible, the existing salt targets. The next key stage is to seek the views of a wider group of stakeholders for the categories covered in the June/July meetings, details of which are set out above.

Plans to review the remaining categories, and set new target(s) for meat extracts (stocks, gravies, bouillons), are in the process of being finalised. However, it is envisaged that DH will conduct an analysis of the remaining categories and will share this analysis with interested parties in due course through a small number of meetings or written consultation.

Once this process is complete the final package, including the revised targets (where appropriate) and a new pledge, will be devised. This will include deciding which categories fall into the essential and business specific categories and reasonable timelines to review progress (further details on the essential and business specific categories are given in the background paper.

Consideration by the High Level Steering Group

Once finalised the full package will go to the High Level Steering Group of the Food Network (HLSG) for their consideration. The intention is for this to be completed in time for the December meeting. Actions beyond this will depend on the considerations of the HLSG.

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