'Food manufacturers must take the lead on salt and sugar levels'
29 Aug 2019
Calls for manufacturers to do more to address public health concerns around salt and sugar are right, says Sleaford Quality Foods’ James Arnold, who aims to set an example...
Health concerns around food high in sugar and salt have been well documented; with a government review saying tougher action is needed to help the fight against obesity and diseases such as type 2 diabetes which are not only taking their toll on the health of the population, but also the economy.
In May last year, Public Health England (PHE) published its first-year progress report of the sugar reduction programme which challenged the food industry to achieve a 20% reduction by 2020, in the nine food categories that contribute the most sugar in the diets of children. The report found that the food industry has made progress but had still fallen short of the 5% it had been targeted at.
Similarly, when PHE revealed its salt targets report for 2017 at the end of last year, it found that while steady progress had been made, the food industry - especially in the out of home sector - was falling behind.
The salt targets were set by the government in 2014, with companies asked to meet average and maximum targets for salt content per 100g, with the maximum targets ranging from 0.13g in canned vegetables to 3.75g in curry pastes. The foods covered by the programme provide more than half the salt in the nation’s diet.
The figures were mixed. For retailers and manufacturers (the in-home sector), the reported said:
Just over half of all average salt reduction targets were met, with retailers making more progress than manufacturers;
Average salt targets were met in nine food categories but meat products met none
Four in five foods had salt levels at or below the maximum targets set.
In addition to the targets set for all industry sectors across the 28 categories, the out of home sector was also set maximum per-serving targets in 11 food categories, including sandwiches, pasta dishes, and children’s meals.
Every food producer has responsibility for improving the health and wellbeing of UK consumers
The report shows seven in 10 foods did not exceed maximum targets and that salt levels are generally higher in out of home products, compared to in-home
Clearly, the food industry has much still to do to help improve the state of the nation's health and try and ease the burden on an already stretched NHS.
The Food and Drink Federation’s director of corporate affairs, Tim Rycroft, said after the PHE sugar reduction report was published that companies needed time to reformulate their products. Any restrictions which would prevent them from communicating these changes effectively would undermine their work.
We completely agree with this, which is why we have been reviewing our Chef William range (specialising in dried and dehydrated ingredients, offering over 1,200 products), in an effort to further renovate the amounts of salt and sugar while not compromising on taste and quality.
The aim is to deliver sugar and salt levels below the March 2018 recommendations from Public Health England.
Every food producer has responsibility for improving the health and wellbeing of UK consumers, our renovation programme is just one way in which Sleaford steps up and delivers our contribution - we trust others will follow.
James Arnold is managing director of Sleaford Quality Foods