Policies & Issues: Food
Salt Reduction Research Project
The Responsibility Deal targets for salt reduction present considerable challenges and there are some technical and consumer acceptance issues which will be very difficult to resolve by the end of 2012 for some product categories and/or some specific products.
To help address this, FDF and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) jointly commissioned Leatherhead Food Research to conduct a comprehensive overview of salt reduction technologies under development.
This project came to an end in June 2012 and the report is now available here. In addition to reviewing emerging technologies and new ingredient solutions, it also highlights current practices in salt reduction which will be useful to those embarking on salt reduction programmes including SMEs and the catering sector. As a result of the review findings, the report makes 3 key recommendations:
1. a call to DH to review current advice against using potassium-based solutions;
2. the creation of minimum food safety requirements for ingredients manufacturers;
3. a need for industry and government to work together to increase awareness of the process that certain ingredients or technologies would need to undergo if they require EU approval.
The report also highlights various ongoing research projects, both in Europe and the UK, which shows that the study of salt reduction continues to be an active field.
Click on the following link to download the report: www.brc.org.uk/downloads/Leatherhead_Salt_Research.pdf
Reformulation of food products has been a priority for BRC members for many years and it demonstrates the high level of commitment retailers have to improve the quality of the food they offer. Successful reformulation relies on a number of factors. It requires a firm knowledge of the manufacturing process and what is technologically possible as well as an understanding of what can be omitted or substituted without compromising quality and safety. Maintaining the quality expected by the consumer is crucial because if consumers are not satisfied, they will buy an alternative product or modify the taste of the product at home. BRC members are experts in understanding not just how important reformulation is but how to deliver it to their customers that demand the best choice of quality food.
On salt, all BRC members are close to meeting all the targets set to be achieved by the end of 2010. Some of our members had met those targets well ahead of time. The BRC believes that further targets for salt reformulation could present retailers with some significant challenges, given what has already been achieved. Removing more salt from some products, such as cooked ham, could alter their shelf lives, which could lead to issues in terms of food safety. Likewise, further salt reductions in some categories such as prepared foods, could begin to see products lose their taste and flavour, increasing the chance of consumers adding salt at home.
Retailers had led the way on saturated fat reformulation. The work they have been doing to reduce saturated fat in their products over the last few years, before any Government campaign was introduced, has resulted in a significant reduction on the levels of this fat consumed by the UK population* (*NDNS data 2009).
In 2006, BRC members committed to remove all hydrogenated vegetable oils, also known as artificial trans fats, from their own brand products. This commitment was achieved by January 2008 and thousands of lines were reformulated. This voluntary activity put considerable pressure on the other parts of the food industry to follow retailers' example.
The BRC believes that reformulation has a role to play in helping customers choose a healthy diet but it is not the only answer. These activities should be supplemented by strong campaigns encouraging people to eat a healthy balanced diet and increasing awareness of what this entails.
Nutrition information in catering establishments
Many of our members have overcome the difficulties associated with providing information in restaurants, and have been successfully leading the way by providing nutrition information in the cafés, restaurants and staff canteens for years.
All of our members have already introduced or are in the process of introducing calorie declaration in their establishments. This is an important first step; calories are well understood by consumers. If over a period of time, evidence shows that calorie indication is having an effect on customers choices, retailers will consider whether information on other nutrients should be given. Some of our restaurant members have been providing full nutrition information for years.
The BRC believes Government should be encouraging businesses to provide calorie information on menus in restaurants and cafés and supporting those who already provide it.