Restaurant chains, caterers and fast food outlets have pledged to cut levels of salt in their meals, but the move has been lambasted by supermarkets for not going far enough.

Announced this week as part of the Department of health’s Responsibility Deal, the commitment marks the first time foodservice giants such as McDonalds, KFC and Pret a Manger have agreed to provide figures on the salt levels in their food for government scrutiny.

But under the terms of the deal, the new signatories will meet the pledge if only 50% of their products comply with government targets, while pledges to publish salt content on menus will not even kick in till 2014.

KFC said it would reduce salt in its two biggest-selling lines by 15% in the next six months. McDonald’s pledged to “work to reduce” the salt content of its cheese, while Wetherspoons said it would reduce salt in its chilli and lasagne dishes.

However, retailers and suppliers, who have been struggling to meet strict guidelines set out a year ago, said more action was needed. “Supermarkets feel the targets are nowhere near as testing as those faced by retailers,” said Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, at the BRC.

Dr Susan Jebb, who heads the Responsibility Deal food network, said: “We recognise the catering sector has been lagging behind. It is now about how we catch up.”