Children eating pizza

The food and drink industry is facing a total of 145 different reformulation targets next year, as health chiefs draw up new salt reduction goals on top of a clampdown on calories and sugar.

The Grocer can reveal Public Health England is planning to unleash new targets for salt, after a failure by the industry to achieve 2017 targets.

Industry sources claim the new salt programme, expected to affect as many as 73 categories, will swamp companies already struggling to hit 69 different targets for categories drawn up by the body for sugar and calorie reduction.


Halo slips: meat alternatives’ salty surprise

Processed meat alternatives including burgers, sausages and mince conceal high levels of salt that make a mockery of their ‘health halo’ status, according to new research.

Action on Salt, which studied 154 supermarket meat alternative lines, found 28% were higher in salt than the maximum targets set by health chiefs.

On average, meat-free burgers from leading supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda contained more salt than meat burgers (0.89g/serve vs 0.75g/serve).

AOS also claimed the saltiest products in the survey - Tofurky’s Hickory Smoked Deli Slices and Tesco’s Meat Free Bacon Style Rashers - both contained more salt per 100g than seawater (3.5g/100g and 3.2g/100g respectively).

The highest average salt content per 100g was found in meat-free bacon (2.03g/100g) and meat-free sliced meat (1.56g/100g).

On average, vegetarian kievs were the saltiest (1.03g) followed by meat-free sausages (0.96g) and plain meat-free pieces and fillets (0.87g).

This month The Grocer revealed PHE had drawn up a new wave of calorie reduction targets affecting the likes of pizzas, pies and ready meals.

However, PHE said this week it would soon also be publishing progress against the 2017 salt reduction targets, which were announced in 2014. The results are expected to show many companies have failed to hit the targets while others have taken no action at all.

Government and industry sources confirmed it was expected that new targets for further reduction would be drawn up next year.

Although health bosses are promising the new salt campaign will focus on junk foods most linked with obesity, other products previously marketed as healthy look set to be in the firing line too.

“We are looking at the prospect next year of having 145 different targets across the industry, which is simply ridiculous,” said one leading industry source. “There doesn’t appear to be a great sense of leadership from the DH about what they want to achieve or an understanding about how difficult many of these targets are.”

Documents show that PHE has so far spent £576,313 with Kantar, on buying data to back its reformulation programme, mostly related to its sugar reduction programme. However, Action on Salt accused the industry of trying to escape reformulation. “My view is that frankly PHE doesn’t have anywhere near the resources it needs to carry out this reformulation programme,” “I think the food industry realises that PHE doesn’t have the capacity to tackle all these issues and they are exploiting that,” said chairman Graham MacGregor.

“If you look at salt reduction, the FSA which carried out the original programme, had a massive team compared to PHE’s current resources and the result was a world leading salt reduction programme.

“If the government is really serious about achieving these targets it needs to inject £20m into the programme, which of course would be money well spent in the fight against obesity and high blood pressure. They are going to try to put it off.”

PHE head of nutrition science Professor Louis Levy said: “Government has been clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. PHE has been collecting data on industry’s progress and we’ll report later this year as planned.”