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Worth its salt

CASH renewed its vendetta against bacon and processed meats but the industry defended its record in reducing salt levels, which are integral to the production of safe and tasty bacon products.

The food campaigning group ‘Consensus Action on Salt and Health’ (CASH) recently published the results of their recent testing of the salt content of bacon products sold in the major supermarkets. Their results showed a wide variation in the salt content of the products tested and they used their research to reinforce their calls for the industry to implement further salt reductions in their bacon products.

Their report received significant coverage in the press and broadcast media, including the Guardian and the Independent.

As reported by Food Manufacture, the industry position remains that salt is essential to the production of bacon and has been significantly reduced in the last thirty years with the introduction of new curing methods.

The CASH results showed considerable variation, which can partly be accounted for by the variable distribution of salt in the meat, as well as the different cooking method used in their tests. Further reduction in salt will have significant implications for both taste and shelf life of bacon. ‘Reduced Salt’ bacons have been on the market for many years but there has been very small consumer uptake.

The food industry recently called for a revision of the Food Standards Agency Salt Reduction Targets following the recent publication of a report by Leatherhead RA. In the case of bacon, the FSA targets require a reduction from the 2010 target of 3.13g per 100g to 2.88g on average.

The Leatherhead report, entitled 'Evaluation of Technological Approaches to Salt Reduction', was commissioned by the Food & Drink Federation and the British Retail Consortium. In the case of meat products, the report highlighted the adverse effects of further salt reduction on both flavour and taste of the product as well as raising concerns about reduced shelf life – especially at a time when the EU Commission was proposing further reductions in the permitted nitrite content of processed meats.

There can be little doubt that the latest CASH initiative was launched in response to the recent FDF/BRC report…..and also news that bacon had recently been voted No1 in a survey seeking to identify Britain’s 'Top 100 Foods'.