The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has set more “challenging” salt reduction targets for 2012, in a bid to ensure manufacturers and retailers continue to reduce the salt content of food.

The revised voluntary targets for 80 categories of foods varies from product to product, but include a salt cut of nearly 10% in bread, more than a fifth in baked beans and 25% in burgers.

The targets reflect the agency’s target of reducing people’s average salt intake to 6g a day. Previous targets for 2010 were set in 2006 and many manufacturers and retailers have already made reductions in salt levels and the revised targets reflect this progress.

However, the FSA said that salt levels still vary considerably between different products and there is “clearly scope for some parts of industry to do more”.

Rosemary Hignett, head of nutrition at the FSA, said: ‘The UK is leading the way in Europe and beyond in salt reduction. The reductions which have already been achieved in the UK are already saving lives. To continue to make progress we have set 2012 targets at levels that will make a further real impact on consumers’ intakes, whilst taking into account technical and safety issues associated with taking salt out of food.’

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The agency said it will work closely with industry to monitor progress towards meeting the 2012 targets and will run further public awareness activity on salt in autumn 2009.

Sue Davies, chief policy adviser, at consumer publication Which? said she was “encouraged” by the new targets but that food manufacturers and retailers cannot afford to be complacent.

“The food industry must commit to meeting these new targets if they are serious about combating diet-related disease,” Davies said.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) also welcomed the move and said the UK is leading the world in this area.

“As always, food safety is industry’s first priority,” said Julian Hunt, director of communications for FDF. “In some circumstances, further significant salt reductions will not be possible until new, innovative technologies, processing techniques and ingredient solutions are developed. We believe that targets are a relatively simplistic approach to driving progress and we’ve outlined to FSA where the particular challenges lie.”