PepsiCo has warned that it won't be able to make any more radical cuts to salt levels in its Walkers crisps until there have been further scientific advances.

The company had taken reformulation as far as it currently could without significantly affecting taste, said PepsiCo Europe regulatory affairs director Natalia Douek, speaking at The Grocer Food and Health conference last week.

Although it would continue to make incremental changes, it was likely to be some time before it made further headline-grabbing reductions, she admitted.

Hitting the FSA's 2012 voluntary salt reduction targets on pellet snacks such as Quavers was proving particularly "challenging" because of the way they were produced.

"The current technologies have taken us a long way, but we will need new ones if we are going to make any more significant changes," she said.

The company started to cut sodium in its snacks in 2004 ahead of the FSA's first round of salt reduction targets in 2006. It relaunched its Walkers core crisps range in 2006 with 25% less salt and removed between 25% and 58% of salt from its snack range including Quavers, Wotsits, Monster Munch and French Fries in 2007.

In 2009, the year the FSA revised its targets in a bid to reduce people's average intake to six grams a day, it unveiled a further 10% cut on its crisps.

PepsiCo's admission that further cuts would be tough came as questionmarks were raised over the FSA targets now its remit had been narrowed.

The targets needed to be realistic whoever they were set by, said Eric Price, food and trading law advisor at testing and advisory business Exova, which has worked with Warburtons to cut salt 38% over the past decade. 

"Further advances must be carefully considered and researched together with industry because they can't be arbitrarily imposed without a serious effect on quality and safety."

Salt levels were the second-biggest concern in the UK behind food prices, maintained the FSA in its biannual public attitude tracker survey published last week.

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