The voluntary targets aim to cut salt in the ten most popular high street dishes – including chips, burgers, chicken portions, battered or breaded fish, pies, curries, beef steaks and grilled chicken, sandwiches, pasta meals and pizzas – to help consumers reach the recommended target of 6g of salt a day.
For example, the DoH recommends taking a pizza with cured meat down from 10.3g to 6g.
Katie Hall, chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "The recommended daily target is 6g of salt per person – yet one pub or restaurant meal can take you well over this.
“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.
"Many supermarkets have signed up to similar salt reduction government targets, which makes the reluctance of the restaurants even more surprising and indefensible.”
New to the debate
But for Sonia Pombo, a nutritionist and member of the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), restaurants are still new to the salt debate, due to the public’s changing eating out habits.
“Supermarkets are taking it quite seriously, it’s part of the food industry’s corporate responsibility – they admit that it’s a public health concern and are doing their best to reduce it in their products.
“For quite a long time restaurants have been left out of that conversation between government and industry, maybe because eating out has been seen as a treat, but it’s becoming much more of a common occurrence so the government is trying to get them more on board,” she told BigHospitality.
She believes the reasons restaurants are lagging behind when it comes to cutting salt include a lack of awareness and training on the salt content of each ingredient.
“Whenever we speak to chefs they always assume that you have to cut salt out completely, but by doing that obviously you will notice a difference. What we suggest is to gradually reduce the salt levels over a period of time, like what the supermarkets have done, so people won’t notice the difference.”
She adds that removing 20 per cent of the salt in a meal in one go would be unnoticeable to the general public, and that restaurants can use other flavour enhancers such as herbs or ginger.
Tips to cut salt content
- Do it gradually
- Use other flavour enhancers
- Research the salt content of every ingredient you use
- Beware of salty combinations such as cheese, capers and anchovies in a salad for example
- Ask for help: By signing up to the government’s Responsibility Deal, restaurants can receive support and advice on how to cut salt in their menus.