Comment in response to the FSA cutting the salt targets

2nd August 2005

On the 1st August the Food Standards Agency (FSA) published new proposed targets for the maximum salt concentrations that must be reached by 2010. Very disappointingly the targets for most food categories have been increased, and in some cases by large amounts. According to the FSA this is due to the fact that the food industry is unable to reach the lower targets.

However members of the Salt Targets Stakeholders Group that advised the FSA consisted entirely of members of the food industry with only one consumer representative from Which?.

‘The reasons given by the food industry for them being unable to reduce the salt levels in their foods do not stand up to any critical examination. For all food categories there are no safety or technical reasons why they can’t be reduced to the original targets.  Salt preference depends on the sensitivity of the salt taste receptors which alter with the amount of salt in the diet. In other words if salt intake is reduced, the salt taste receptors become much more sensitive and lower levels of salt give the same salty taste. Provided the reductions are done slowly and over 5 years i.e. by 2010 there is no evidence whatsoever that consumers will reject lower salt foods. Indeed experimental evidence in humans suggests that consumers are more likely to prefer the foods with lower salt concentration.’

‘Reducing our salt intake from the current 10-12g per day to 5-6g per day will prevent 70,000 strokes and heart attacks happening, 35,000 of which are fatal. If these new targets are accepted this is very bad news as salt intake will not fall in the UK by 2010 to the 5-6g per day envisaged. As a result many thousands of strokes and heart attacks will occur unnecessarily. ‘