Salt

Policy Position

Food and drink manufacturers are committed to working with government to continue to reduce salt in their products. Many of Britain’s biggest and most-loved brands have been reformulated to reduce salt, without making any compromises on taste, quality or safety.

We are proud of our advancements in technology to facilitate these changes, and are now widely acknowledged to be leading the world in voluntary salt reduction. Much of the salt reduction has been taken forward in key sectors such as bread, biscuits and cakes, breakfast cereals, soups and sauces, crisps and savoury snacks.

While manufacturers are continuing to work on salt reductions, companies are now finding reductions harder to achieve without compromising product safety or jeopardising taste, texture or shelf-life.

Background

In 2003 the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) published the report Salt and Health, recommending a reduction in average adult salt intakes to 6g per day. This was the catalyst for a government led salt reduction programme.

Salt targets

The targets were originally published by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Department of Health (DH), however, they are now being run by Public Health England to form part of their wider reformulation project from the Childhood Obesity Plan. In total, four sets of targets have been published since 2006.

The latest targets were published in 2014 as two sets, covering work up until December 2017:

  • Revised targets for manufacturers.
  • Maximum per serve salt targets for the out of home sector.

While manufacturers are still working towards these targets, they have been progressing this work for a number of years and have achieved significant reductions. Government is now focusing on engaging with the out of home sector to enable reformulation to have a wider effect across the population.

The development of the targets involved a series of category specific stakeholder meetings, along with meetings with the out of home sector to create the new maximum salt targets per single servings. These targets were set for a range of popular dishes in the industry.

Consumer acceptance

Consumer acceptance is a significant challenge in reformulation work. Potassium-based sodium replacers used appropriately can contribute a salty taste and allow less salt to be added to the product. The government do not recommend potassium-based sodium replacers as part of their salt reduction approach, but they are due later this year to publish a benefit-risk analysis of their use as part of a joint working group with SACN and COT (Committee on Toxicity, FSA).

Role of salt

Salt plays many roles in food beyond just adding saltiness to the flavour, these including:

  • food safety through preservation
  • raising agent
  • gluten formation
  • enhancing other flavours within the food
  • enhancing texture

Salt intakes

Average salt intakes, based on urinary sodium over a 24-hour period, are decreasing, although still exceed the recommended daily intake of 6 g/day. Adult intakes have decreased from 8.8 g/day in 2005/06 to 8.0 g/day in 2014, representing an 11% decrease over the past decade. PHE has indicated that the next urinary sodium data will be collected in 2018/19, and published the following year.


Last reviewed: 24 Jul 2017