Premium bread research The FSA has been working for some time now on encouraging food processors to reduce salt in their products, as part of its campaign to keep consumption levels to a maximum of six grams per day. However, premium branded breads are made with higher protein flour than that used for supermarket own-brand varieties, meaning that greater salt levels are required to maintain an acceptable shape, texture and colour of the bread, the FSA said. The agency also told BakeryAndSnacks.com that consumers are often unwilling to purchase bread with imperfections to its shape, especially when buying a premium brand, making salt reduction in these products even more difficult. Therefore the FSA, along with the Chorleywood Food Research Association Group (CCFRA) and Nottingham University, is planning to study how salt levels affect the physical qualities of bread dough, such as stickiness, collapse and texture. The findings will be used to predict how dough components such as starch, protein and lipids respond to changes in salt levels and what compensatory measures are needed to improve the texture of bread if the salt is reduced, the agency added. A number of "key branded" manufacturers are already involved in the research, and "once we have the full findings we will explore the best way of publicising the results to ensure industry make maximum use of them." Health problems A high level of salt in diets is one of the biggest problems in Western societies today. According to a meta-analysis published last December in The Lancet Chronic Diseases Series, high salt intake is responsible for increasing blood pressure (hypertension) and can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD) - a disease that causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe. Reducing salt intake around the world by 15 per cent could prevent as many as nine million deaths between 2006 and 2015, the analysis said. FSA campaigns According to the FSA, industry awareness of the issue has already started to pay off, as the Federation of Bakers has already reduced the amount of salt in pre-packed sliced bread by 30 per cent. The Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers has also reduced the amount of salt in breakfast cereal by 38 per cent, while a number of supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Marks and Spencer, have agreed to voluntary salt reduction targets. However, a survey of UK consumers taken by the FSA suggested that concern about salt and fat levels in foods had dropped. The results showed that fat, sugar and salt still ranked as the main areas of concern, but consumers were marginally less worried about the healthy profile of their food than the previous year. Forty-one per cent of respondents said they were worries about fat in food, compared to 46 per cent in 2006; concern over saturated fat was down from 45 per cent to 38 per cent; salt from 55 per cent to 51 per cent; and sugar from 44 per cent to 40 per cent. The agency said the results "reinforced" the need for awareness-raising initiatives.