Processors welcome FSA targets

THE BRITISH Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has welcomed the Food Standard Agency's (FSA) targets for lower salt content in products across the food industry.

The reduction targets apply to salt levels in the 85 food categories that contribute most to the amount of salt in our diet including bread, cereal products, ready meals cakes, pastries and meat products.

BMPA director, Maurice McCartney said: "The FSA has succeeded in mobilising the food industry to reduce salt levels in products. In our sector the targets are beyond what would have happened without the Agency's partnership approach and tenacity. Our member businesses recognise the public health benefit and have signed up for change, in some cases ahead of the 2010 deadline.There is considerable momentum to reduce salt within the industry and we believe that it is important this is maintained."

He said the maximum sodium levels set for meat product categories were easily understandable for technical managers and product developers and offered individual manufacturers the flexibility to set lower levels.

The target levels set by the FSA for sausages, (fresh, chilled and frozen) is 550mg of sodium per 100g which equates to 1.4g of salt per 100g. Mr McCartney said nearly 30 per cent of sausage product lines in a BMPA survey were greater than 750mg in mid 2005.

Target levels for all types of injection cured bacon, excluding dry and immersion cured bacon, is 750mg of sodium per 100g equating to 1.9g of salt per 100g.

Referring to bacon in the FSA document which lists all the new product salt level targets, it states: "Products included in this category account for 85-90 per cent of the bacon market. The target is based on the process of injection cured bacon being managed with a maximum in going amount of sodium to achieve an average of 1.4g in the final product. This is similar to the approach recommended by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for nitrates and nitrites." Mr McCartney said the reason some meat products had not been given target levels was due to current difficulties in measuring levels of sodium or salt.

FSA director of consumer choice and dietary health, Gill Fine, said: "Although challenging, we believe the salt levels set out represent a realistic rate of reduction which will have a real impact on consumers' intakes."

Director of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Andrew Opie said retailers had made huge progress in recent years to remove excessive salt from thousands of products.

The FSA will review the targets in 2008 and is currently developing the next phase of its salt awareness campaign.