Bestselling crime writer Ruth Rendell is calling on manufacturers to scrap the use of the words sodium chloride and sodium on food labels when referring to salt.

In a House of Lords debate on the salt content of children's food last week, Baroness Rendell said consumers might not know that salt was often described as sodium or sodium chloride on labels.

"Many parents who are anxious to avoid giving children food that may lead to high blood pressure, heart attack or even cancer in later life may not know that sodium or sodium chloride is common salt," she said.

During the debate, crossbench peer Baroness Howe called for the government to recognise the need for a pre-9pm television advertising ban on all high-salt foods.

Liberal Democrat peer Jenny Tonge added that salt in high quantities was toxic and asked why the government was not doing more to tackle the problem.

"Why is the government dithering over forcing manufacturers to reduce the salt content of prepared food and snacks that children in particular eat? Where is the action? We want it now," said Tonge.

Government whip Baroness Thornton defended the industry, stating that the UK was recognised as having the most comprehensive programme of salt reduction in the world.

"The government's approach includes reformulation that will reduce the level of salt in foods in 85 different categories including pizzas, snacks, breakfast cereals and convenience products. Those targets are being monitored and, if necessary, firmer action will be taken," said Thornton.

Government-backed consumer awareness campaigns had helped people cut down on salt faster than in any other country and by a greater amount, she said.

UK salt consumption dropped by almost 2,000 tonnes last year thanks to reformulation, according to the Food and Drink Federation.