Blue cheese dodges FSA salt slashing plan

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt, Cheese

Wrangling between the UK dairy industry and the country's food
watchdog is set to continue over salt slashing targets, after both
failed to reach an agreement to cut salt in blue cheese.

The Food Standards Agency appeared to climb down from its original proposal to cut salt levels in blue cheese, despite publishing salt reduction targets for a range of different foods.

The agency proposed last October that the dairy industry should cut average salt levels in UK-produced blue cheese to 1.9g per 100g, as part of a wide attempt to lower consumers' daily salt intake.

But, the FSA said in its target document last week: "From the information available to the agency at present, on technical and food safety issues, we do not believe it is possible to set a target for blue cheeses at present."

The move is a small victory for the dairy industry, after it immediately rejected the FSA's proposals last year.

Industry association Dairy UK was particularly concerned about stilton, which it said "is a traditional cheese (now a name with Protected Designation of Origin status), and its salt content is a function of its degree of maturation"​.

Negotiations on how to set a salt slashing target for British blue cheese were continuing, according to both the FSA and Stilton Cheese Makers' Association.

Stilton, known as the king of English cheeses, already has one of the lowest salt levels for blue cheese, about 2g per 100g. Salt content is considered critical to both blue veining and flavour development. It is also an unpressed cheese, which makes it difficult to ensure uniform moisture and sodium levels in different parts of the same cheese and in different cheeses.

The FSA may face more problems with imported blue cheese. Danish Blue, for example, contains an average 3.1g of salt per 100g, while France's Roquefort holds around 4g.

The food watchdog, however, said that for now it was pleased to have agreed the current targets and that it was encouraged by producers voluntarily cutting salt levels in the products.

US firm Kraft Foods was singled out for particular praise, after cutting salt by around a third in its cheese spread and snack products.

Elsewhere in dairy, the salt reduction targets were generally the same as those proposed by the FSA last October. This means 2g and 2.9g per 100g targets for cheese spreads and other processed cheeses respectively, while salted butter has a target of 1.7g per 100g and lightly salted must try to hit 1.2g.

Ed Komorowski, Dairy UK's technical director, said he was pleased with the outcome. "Dairy products contain little or no added salt but the dairy industry is playing its part in achieving salt reductions where this is possible,"​ he said.

Almost half the UK population, 26m people, eat more than the recommended daily 6g of salt, according to the FSA. It added, however, that a recent survey showed 20m more people said they were consciously trying to cut down on salt, compared to before the watchdog began its public campaign in September 2004.

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