The government has been urged to scrap industry targets for salt reduction, after scientists warned they risked ruining the taste of products from bacon to Cheddar.

A report by Leatherhead Food Research said the step-change demanded by ministers would either lead to “unacceptable” changes in flavour and appearance, or massive increases in food waste by removing salt’s preservation qualities.

The FDF and the BRC, who commissioned the study, are calling on Andrew Lansley to abandon his call for a 15% reduction in salt levels this year. It comes a week after The Grocer revealed a host of companies - including Kraft, United Biscuits and General Mills - are set to miss their 2012 salt reduction Responsibility Deal pledges spectacularly.

Leatherhead found food companies had in many cases hit the wall with efforts to cut salt. It said that without new technology being developed - which could take years - further wholesale reductions were likely to lead to shortened shelf life and changes to taste and appearance.

“Producing foods with even less salt could simply result in consumers switching to higher salt products,” said BRC deputy food director Andrea Martinez-Inchausti.

Industry is now calling on the government to concentrate on extending the Responsibility Deal to companies in sectors such as catering, which are not signed up to salt reduction.

The Grocer has learnt that the DH is prepared to look again at the way it monitors companies signed up to the Deal. It is also preparing to seek a new series of pledges from companies in the hospitality and catering sectors.