The campaign against sugar has diverted resources from efforts to reduce salt in food, ministers have been told.

Minutes for the Responsibility Deal high level steering group this week revealed the industry blames the current focus on sugar for the slow sign-up to new 2017 pledges on salt reduction. It also warned it was hampering the efforts of those yet to hit 2012 targets. “The recent focus on sugar had taken priority and diverted resources for many businesses,” the report said.

It follows a warning by Public Health England that the focus on sugar should not be allowed to affect efforts to tackle areas such as salt and overall calorie reduction.

The minutes also reveal growing frustration about the time taken by government health experts to review the use of potassium salt replacers in reformulated products. This is currently not recommended by the Department of Health on health grounds, but industry fears this too is holding up progress on salt reduction.

However, Katharine Jenner, campaign director at Consensus Action on Salt and Health who also spearheaded the Action on Sugar campaign, said: “I simply don’t buy these excuses. Companies have been involved in talks about the new salt targets going back months and should have had their plans finalised well before the campaign on sugar began in January. If it is true companies have been diverting resources into tackling sugar I’d be delighted to see evidence of what they are actually doing about it.”

Dr Susan Jebb, chair of the steering group, also said she was “growing frustrated” at the slow sign-up to the 2017 salt pledges.