Sweeping new targets on salt reduction have been scrapped, as the government acknowledges the technical hurdles suppliers still have to overcome before existing targets are met, The Grocer can reveal.

The Department of health has agreed to review all of the 2012 salt reduction targets under the Responsibility Deal, around 40% of which have still to be hit, with some of them likely to be reset at a lower level.

It has also revealed, despite pressure from the health lobby, there will be no industry-wide set of new targets until the end of 2013 at least.

In July last year industry giants including Kraft, United Biscuits and General Mills admitted they had “hit a wall” over salt reduction, claiming it would be impossible to hit their targets without further scientific breakthroughs.

Now the DH has decided it will look again. A report from the DH’s Responsibility Deal high-level steering group said there would be a “review and recalibration, where appropriate, of all the 2012 salt targets”. Areas such as meat, bread, cheese and cakes are among the areas where suppliers have claimed the targets cannot be met without new technologies or unacceptable changes in the appearance, taste and safety of food.

Andrew Opie, food director at the BRC, described the decision by the DH as an “outbreak of pragmatism”.

“It’s a realisation that this is a huge piece of work, not something that can happen overnight,” he said.

“There have been major reductions in salt achieved by the industry but we now have been given a period where we can pause for breath and explore new ways to make further progress.”

The DH says it will draw up a set of “essential targets”, which business will be expected to work towards, to be finalised “by the end of 2013”.