A leading industry executive has defended the UK food market's record in reducing salt levels in food products, claiming the country is leading the world when it comes to reformulation. However, he conceded that the work was not complete.

Salman Amin, president of PepsiCo UK and the chairman of the Food and Drink Federation's Health and Wellbeing Steering Group, said: "I think most can agree that salt and sodium reduction is an area where industry, Government and the FSA have worked constructively together over a number of years towards a shared objective. And real progress has been made."

Amin was helping launch the latest phase of the Food Standards Agency's salt awareness campaign this week. 

"The fact that the FDF has recently restructured to created a Health and Wellbeing Steering Group, which is made up of senior colleagues from across the industry, should give you a sense of how seriously we take our responsibilities in this area."

Amin highlighted the work in product reformulation that had been going on in the UK industry.

"It's an area where the industry has a really strong track record. We really are leading the world when it comes to making progress in reformulation," he said.

"When we surveyed our top members towards the end of 2005 - we found that 36% of their products, worth £7.4bn at retail, had lower levels of salt compared with the year before. As well as reducing the salt content across the board, we found that companies were also launching lower salt and salt-free alternatives."

Amin went on: "We are aware that some feel industry's progress does not go far enough or that it is not being achieved quickly enough. We understand that concern, but our efforts will continue.  Just let me say two short things about the speed at which food manufacturers move. 

"First, the microbiological safety of food is key and there are some technical constraints that limit the speed of further progress.

"Second, consumer acceptability is another very important - a step by step approach to salt reduction is often necessary to ensure that palates can readjust and that consumers do not reject lower salt products."

Amin claimed that the UK is leading the world when it comes to reformulation.

"No-one I've met in the food industry is saying our work is complete, but it is encouraging to see commentators acknowledge progress," he concluded.