CASH comment on The Responsibility Deal ‘Salt Catering Pledge’

CASH are pleased to see caterers are finally being invited to join the salt reduction programme, a decision long overdue considering the great progress being made by retailers and manufacturers within the Responsibility Deal to date.  

However, we are very disappointed to see that the Responsibility Deal ‘salt catering pledges’ are such a departure from the very clear cut 2012 salt targets within the original salt pledge.  

There are three main pledges:  
1. Training and Kitchen Practice
2. Reformulation of products as purchased by the customer
3. Procurement of ingredients/food that meets 2012 salt targets

There are some very good initiatives included within the pledges, such as chef training, making nutrition information available to customers and the use of ‘volume of sales’ to determine which items should be reformulated soonest.  However, it is unclear how these pledges can possibly be monitored as there is no base level for comparison and chefs are, unfortunately, notoriously resistant to change.  

If these pledges are to have an impact on the salt intake of customers, all of the aspects covered by the 3 pledges would have to be undertaken by the companies. Instead however companies are able to choose which of the 3 pledges they sign up to meaning any impact on consumer intake is likely to be diluted.

Furthermore, catering companies are only being asked to meet half the targets that the retailers and manufacturers have to meet, meaning that beyond 2012 there will still be huge differences between food manufacturers and a “level playing field”, whereby  which the industry desired will still not be achieved.

“The supermarkets and manufacturers that signed the original salt pledge should be furious.” Professor Graham MacGregor of the Wolfson Institute, and Chairman of CASH says, “These watered down pledges will hold salt reduction back years, meanwhile many thousands more people will die from the effects of blood pressure on strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.”  

We are disheartened that the Department of Health did not take more notice of our views, which seem to have been outweighed by the food industry.  Our suggestions included:

• CASH would like to see an element of monitoring incorporated – such as product testing, quantity of salt purchased, or even chef’s palate training.
• CASH would like to see an overall portion size target incorporated, as is used for Front of Pack labelling (2.4g per portion is considered “high”)
• CASH would like to see the pledgers agree to meet 100% of the 2012 targets by 2014, and then to continue with further reductions in line with the rest of the food industry.

Full details of the Catering pledges and the Responsibility Deal can be found on the Department of Health website