Food for thought

WHILE THE Government’s latest Responsibility Deal pledges for salt reduction are more stringent than ever, Susan Gregory, Head of Food at Nestlé Professional, looks at why they’re only a starting point in the battle to reduce the nation’s salt intake …

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“It’s widely accepted that too much salt is bad for us and research shows that reducing intakes by just 1g prevents 4,147 premature deaths and saves the NHS £288 million each year.


Hailed a huge success, the Government’s Responsibility Deal pledges for salt reduction have been credited for playing a major role in helping to cut daily salt intakes by five per cent in UK diets. To keep the momentum going, the latest set of pledges – which sets targets for 2017 – aim to help us further reduce salt intakes to the recommended maximum of 6g per day, for adults.


With such an ambitious aim in mind, this time round the pledges are more stringent than ever and take into account an even wider range of food categories. Whereas the 2012 targets focused on foods which were the highest contributors to dietary salt intakes (such as bread, cured meats and cereals), targets have now also been set for a wider range of food categories, such as gravies and bouillons.


Exceeding expectations


More than 30 companies have signed up to the new pledges, from supermarkets and contract caterers to major food manufacturers, including Nestlé Professional, and I would urge all companies across the foodservice sector to join us.


However, while there’s no doubt that those who sign up will be working hard to reduce salt in their products and recipes in line with this, if we are to collectively achieve the ambitious target set by the Government, we have to view the new pledges as another step in our continuing journey to help reduce salt intakes. Nestlé Professional has been reducing salt since 1998 and we have had a global salt reduction policy in place since 2005.


Before the new pledges were introduced, we had already turned our attention to products that weren’t covered by the 2012 targets to see where else we could reduce salt within our products without compromising on flavour. This means we’ve already achieved the targets set for our gravy products, for example, but this doesn’t mean we will rest on our laurels.


Raising awareness


Doing our part to cut the nation’s salt intake isn’t just about reducing the salt in our products. For example, as part of our work with the foodservice industry, we run an online course in partnership with the British Nutrition Foundation, which teaches the next generation  of chefs about nutrition, health and wellness. Salt reduction is just one of many topics covered within the course, which also includes energy and nutrients, understanding food labels and catering for health.


Keeping a focus on health and nutrition at the heart of everything you do will naturally include efforts to help reduce the level of salt currently consumed by today’s diners.


While awareness of the potential health implications of having too much salt in their diets is likely to influence the food choices of some consumers, there’s no doubt that the food industry has a major part to play in reducing salt intakes by reducing it at source. Cutting the nation’s daily intake to just 6g may seem like a pipe dream, but by working together, food suppliers and the foodservice sector can help make it a reality.”