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The report from Action on Salt found a 30g portion of cheddar contains more salt than a packet of crisps

The dairy industry has rejected a new report from Action on Salt that claims the cheese sector is failing to take salt reduction seriously.

The report from AoS found a 30g portion of cheddar contains more salt than a packet of crisps.

The data analysed 600 cheddar and similar cheeses across 10 retailers, and found the cheddar with the highest salt content was Asda’s 30% Less Fat Mature British Cheese, containing 2g/100g, compared to Morrisons Savers Mild Coloured Cheddar which contained 28% less salt.

The organisation said this proved salt “is unnecessary in such high amounts and reduction is achievable”.

“This is nonsense,” said CEO of Dairy UK Judith Bryans.

“Vintage and mature cheddars age for much longer than mild cheddars,” she explained. “Salt performs a number of essential roles in cheese which go beyond enhancing taste: it inhibits the growth and activity of harmful organisms, it controls the breakdown of protein which is important for flavour and texture development, and it is crucial for the development of defining cheese characteristics such as colour and crust.”

According to AoS, retailer own-brand cheeses are, on average, lower in salt compared to those produced by manufacturers, with Morrisons having the lowest average salt content across retailers and Cathedral City owner Saputo having one of the highest.

The report adds many of the cheese products available today fall below the maximum salt target set in 2020 by the Department of Health and Social Care.

“Yet it still calls for further reductions citing variations as it’s justification, but the variations are because it has compared a range of cheeses all of different maturity levels and with different characteristics,” said Bryans.

She added that cheesemakers had “made significant efforts to reduce the salt content of their products over the years and will continue to do so where technically possible and where this poses no risk to food quality and safety”.

“However, we can’t ask cheesemakers to go beyond the current technical limits of cheesemaking and compromise the safety of the products they are putting on the market,” she explained.

The AoS report called for an immediate review of current salt reduction targets and stronger enforcement of them as they currently do not include plant-based cheese products, more than half of which currently exceed the target set for cheese.