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In October the Pizza Pasta & Italian Food Association issued a detailed response to the Food
Standards Agency on its proposed new 2012 targets for salt. The Association believes that
the new targets are unrealistic and is concerned they may undermine all the work that has
been done so far by the food industry. You can see the full response on the PAPA web site at In this article PAPA director, Jim Winship, discusses some of the concerns
and questions why small lobby groups are being given so much credence.
n its latest missive on salt, CASH (Concensus faced with meeting new salt targets that some products are ‘tasteless’ or ‘bland’.
Action on Salt & Health) attacks the traditional believe could put lives in jeopardy and which Salt has always been used for its preservation
English breakfast as containing as much could completely upset the balance in the UK properties – reductions in salt inevitably mean
‘hidden’ salt as an adult should eat in a day. food industry. that products have shorter shelf-lives. To meet
Surprise, surprise! The key to professor MacGregor’s success is the the 2012 targets the shelf-life of some meats
While one might be tempted to laugh at the power of the media to name and shame plus, of would be reduced by 7 to 14 days with
apparent surprise of this revelation, the constant course, the love of our media for negative stories. consequent huge costs to the consumer as well
barracking of the food industry by small and And it’s a tactic that he has got down to a fine art. as a substantial increase in food waste.
vociferous consumer lobby groups, like CASH, Virtually every press release he issues is written Many products, like pizza bases, simply don’t
has a deadly serious side. to a formula that says the same thing – all that work if salt levels are reduced too much because
If ever there was a case of the tail wagging the changes is the product. Furthermore, he knows salt is critical to the functionality of yeast. Not
dog, this has to be it. CASH comprises Professor full well that there will always be products out only will they taste bland but their structure will
Graham MacGregor and two assistants who work there which have higher salt levels than others. be changed, making for a very different product.
with him to pull together the strings of publicity. And, if you have to slightly twist the facts – well In many cases the new targets being set for
Effectively, therefore, he is a one-man campaign who will notice! salt levels in individual ingredients are such that if
but also a highly successful one who makes full In different circumstances one might applaud you bring them together to make a finished pizza
use of his position as professor of cardiovascular the tenacity of this old campaigner whose it simply could not meet the required targets.
medicine at St George’s crusade dates back to the days of the Coma Taken literally, this would mean that many
Hospital Medical School Report and his opinions not being heeded. But favourite pizzas would have to disappear off the
in London. things are turning rather too serious for that. shelf or menu. Is this what consumers really
Regardless of the The original 2010 targets set by the Food want?
fact that other Standards Agency (FSA) for the food industry to There appears to be no realisation that
eminent scientists meet in reducing salt levels did make some sense reductions in salt are just one of a number of
and medical and, indeed, most sectors of food retailing and pressures being exerted on the food industry at
experts around the manufacture have made the commitment to get the moment. Reductions in saturated fats, sugars
world question the there. Many in the foodservice sector are also and artificial colourings are all being targeted. In
seriousness of the striving to do the same, although it is far less easy many cases they inter-relate with each other,
relationship between for them most do not have the resources or making reformulation highly complex and costly,
salt and health (e.g. Dr means to do so. Furthermore, if they get it wrong, especially when targets keep changing.
Joel Dunning, there is risk of falling foul of trading standards Do consumers really want to take these risks?
consultant in legislation. Do they really want to be told what they can eat
cardiothoracic surgery at Then, last summer, the FSA shocked everyone down to the last ounce of ingredient?
James Cook University by coming out with new targets for 2012 – clearly Surely the millions of consumers who walk the
Hospital, pressured into doing so by politicians and aisles of our supermarkets every day of the year
Middlesborough), consumer groups like CASH who have their own are more representative than some of these small
professor MacGregor agendas. In doing so they appear to have lobby groups who seem to have the government
is not to be swayed completely disregarded some of the stern facts of and its agencies wound round their little fingers!
from his mission. life that are concerning everyone else: One sympathises with the FSA to a point –
Furthermore, this If you reduce salt too much in ingredients like they are caught between two hard places. If they
one-man band bacon and ham you run a serious risk of causing bow to industry they are accused by consumer
has learnt how, a food safety disaster as salt is a preservative. groups (and the media) of not supporting
by manipulating There is, for example, a serious risk of botulism. consumers – if they go the other way they run
the media, he If potassium is used to replace salt in the risk of failing.
can force the ingredients like bacon, there is a risk of people By all means let’s work together to improve the
government consuming too much potassium and no-one nation’s health – we should accept that people
and greats of seems to know the consequences of this on need to improve their diets, pay more attention
the food health. to what they are eating, take more exercise and
industry to If you reduce salt levels too fast in some so forth. The way to achieve this is surely by
do his products and not in others, consumer palates will education, encouraging consumers to balance
bidding – tend to reject low salt items as being bland. Since their diets more carefully and providing them
to such reducing salt levels too meet 2010 targets one with the information they need to do this.
an extent retailer has seen a 63% increase in consumer My plea is not to abandon targets but to work
that we complaints year-on-year. Another has seen an together to achieve them at a sensible and safe
are now increase of 30% in consumer complaints stating pace.
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