Restaurants and pub chains have been urged today to stop “dragging their heels” and sign up to salt reduction targets.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said just one restaurant group, Jamie’s Italian, and one fast food chain, Subway, had committed to voluntary targets launched by the Department of Health almost five months ago to cut salt in the 10 most popular high street dishes.
These include chips, burgers, chicken portions, battered or breaded fish, pies, curries, beef steaks and grilled chicken, sandwiches, pasta meals and pizzas.
Current guidelines recommend adults consume no more than 6g of salt a day but the LGA said some restaurant and pub meals had been found to have up to 9g.
Despite a considerable dip in salt consumption, experts say levels are still far too high and more needs to be done to reduce people’s intake.
Councillor Katie Hall, chairwoman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Excessive salt is a major killer and not enough is being done to tackle it. Despite new targets set by government to bring restaurants in line with the rest of industry, they are lagging a long way behind. We think this is totally unacceptable.
“We need to tackle head-on excessive levels of salt in foods and the big high street restaurants and pubs chains need to get on board and commit swiftly.
“Many supermarkets have signed up to similar salt reduction government targets, which makes the reluctance of the restaurants even more surprising and indefensible.
“Government statistics show thousands of deaths from salt-related health issues like high blood pressure and strokes could be saved, along with hundreds of millions of pounds to the public health purse. This issue needs to be addressed by everyone in the food industry, quickly, comprehensively and above all robustly.”
According to the British Hospitality Association (BHA), the wider industry is taking firm action to reduce salt in food.
Jonh Dyson, food and technical affairs advisor at the BHA, said: “We have developed with the Department of Health three salt pledges suitable to the catering industry which cover training, kitchen practice and procurement and there has been a very wide and substantial sign up to these pledges which are currently being updated.”
Leeds City Council said its ‘Smart Swaps’ healthy eating drive had proved a success but Dr Ian Cameron, the authority’s director of public health, said: “We would welcome food outlets looking at the food they sell and seeing what they can do to make it healthier.”