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July 13, 2012
An independent report examining ways of further reducing salt in foods is published today (Friday) by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

The project, undertaken by Leatherhead Food Research (LFR), set out to identify suitable techniques to reduce salt which would also address the related problems of products having a shorter shelf-life or lacking taste or texture. The report shows potential future methods exist but need either considerably more scientific development, including establishing their safety for consumption, or have yet to be tried in actual foods.

BRC and FDF members are all committed to on-going efforts to reduce salt in their foods wherever possible but, given the limited solutions identified in the report, in the future this is likely to mean salt reduction will be achieved through small changes to individual products rather than dramatic reductions across entire ranges.

With retailers and major brands reaching the limit of what they can do until there are further scientific advances, efforts to reduce salt consumption in the UK should focus on:
- Encouraging companies not currently engaged in the Responsibility Deal to get involved.
- Spreading the successful approaches used by big name retailers and brands to smaller businesses, particularly within catering.
- Consumer education, such as encouraging people to use herbs and spices when cooking and to taste food at the table before adding salt.

British Retail Consortium Deputy Food Director, Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, said: "The UK leads the world in salt reduction and we're approaching the limit of what is currently possible. Producing foods with even less salt but which go off too quickly or lack flavour could simply result in consumers switching to higher salt products. That's no solution.

"Retailers take their commitment to public health extremely seriously and have invested their own money in this research specifically to look for new ways of doing even better on salt. There's no arguing with the science though. Development of new techniques is going to take time and retailers will have to wait for those advances along with everybody else.

"There's no reason for efforts on salt reduction to stand still in the meantime. Other business which lag behind the best or haven't even committed to reducing salt need to catch up. Making our research freely available can help them do that. And there has to be a realistic look at people's behaviour in the home."

Barbara Gallani, Food Safety and Science Director at the FDF, said: "This report illustrates the complexity of salt reduction, and demonstrates the need for all parties to work together if continued progress is to be made to drive down salt consumption.

"LFR were able to undertake such a thorough review due to cooperation from a range of institutions including ingredient manufacturers, academics and CASH.

"We hope this report will be used both by our members and more broadly across the food industry. It has been sent to the Department of Health and the Chair and members of the Responsibility Deal Food Network to inform the next stages of the salt reduction work."

Dr Paul Berryman, Chief Executive at Leatherhead Food Research, said: "Salt reduction is very complex. Each product category presents different challenges because salt affects taste, texture, shelf life and food safety.

"Our research identified some exciting new techniques using mineral salts, potassium replacers, taste enhancers and clever manipulation of salt crystal size and position. These will assist food companies new to salt reduction.

"However, Government should reconsider its discouragement of potassium replacers and give clear guidance on how companies can gain legal approval for novel approaches. Most importantly, we need a standard method to check that salt reduction does not compromise the safety and shelf life of the food. After all, salt is a natural preservative."

Notes to editors

Click on the following link to download the full report: It is being made freely available to anyone with an interest in the issue.

The Government's Public Health Responsibility Deal, launched in England in March 2011, included a commitment to reduce salt levels by another 15 per cent by the end of 2012, compared with 2010. Signatories indicated that in some cases this would only be possible if new techniques were found to help preserve and flavour food.

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