Dairy UK attacks FSA salt slashing targets

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Salt Butter Milk Fsa

Government salt slashing plans for a range of dairy products are
too severe, says industry body Dairy UK, attempting to broker a
deal as the UK food watchdog turns up the heat.

Dairy UK said cheese spreads should aim for an average salt content of 2.5g per 100g and retail cheese slices 3.3g, in answer to a Food Standards Agency (FSA) consultation on salt reduction.

The FSA, as part of its war on salt, had called for 2g and 2.9g averages for cheese spreads and other processed cheeses, such as slices and strings, respectively.

The food watchdog also wanted a 1.9g per 100g average salt content for blue cheese, but Dairy UK rejected the figure without issuing a new proposal.

It warned the FSA benchmark could be in error, particularly regarding stilton cheese, which "is a traditional cheese (now a name with Protected Designation of Origin status), and its salt content is a function of its degree of maturation"​.

The industry body, however, indicated a greater willingness to achieve the FSA's salt cutting targets for butter, although said it would have preferred no targets at all.

The group said it would accept a 0.2g cut in standard salted butter to 1.8g of salt per 100g and a level of 1.3g for lightly salted butter. The FSA had set targets of 1.4g and 1.2g respectively for these two products.

Ed Komorowski, technical director at Dairy UK, said the association had already proposed a 10 per cent salt reduction for ripened UK cheese over two years.

The FSA has spent the last year pressuring all food firms to cut salt in their products as part of a plan to reduce Britons' average daily salt intake to 6g by 2010.

The FSA recently announced that its message was getting through, claiming that 22m consumers were now trying to cut down on salt.

Yet, it said British men were still eating an average of 11g per day, with women on 8g per day; putting their health at risk and contributing to the £840m spent every year by the National Health Service on prescription drugs to lower blood pressure.

The new FSA consultation and targets are a sign that the watchdog is stepping up its war on salt to achieve the 2010 6g target.

It said milk, cream, cheese and yellow fat spreads account for around 11 per cent of the salt content in our food intake, although cheese, together with bacon, sausages and pickles, appeared in the FSA's "less obviously salty foods"​ category earlier this year.

Reducing salt is a tricky business for food firms, who fear the change in taste may be too great for consumers to cope with if done too quickly.

Salt also still plays an integral role in cheese processing as a functional ingredient, acting as a preservative and inhibiting the growth of pathogenic or spoilage bacteria - making a total reduction virtually impossible without some kind of viable substitute.

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