Cut­ting salt con­tent of bread will raise price, bak­ers say

Business Day - - BUSINESS & ECONOMY - TA­MAR KAHN Sci­ence and Health Ed­i­tor [email protected]

CAPE TOWN — The South African Cham­ber of Bak­ing said yes­ter­day that it agreed with Pi­o­neer Foods that the gov­ern­ment’s pro­pos­als for cut­ting the salt con­tent of pro­cessed food, if ac­cepted in their cur­rent form, would force them to make pro­duc­tion changes that would make bread more ex­pen­sive.

The Depart­ment of Health is tar­get­ing sodium, con­tained in salt, as it was be­lieved to in­crease blood pres­sure, in turn rais­ing the risk of ill­ness such as heart at­tacks and stroke.

It pub­lished draft reg­u­la­tions to the Food­stuffs, Cos­met­ics and Dis­in­fec­tants Act on July 11 that pro­pose a grad­ual re­duc­tion in the salt con­tent of a range of pro­cessed food with max­i­mum lev­els set for 2016 and 2018, as it tries to get South Africans to halve their daily salt in­take to just 5g, or a tea­spoon­ful.

Bread is among the tar­geted food groups as it is a sta­ple for many South Africans.

Pi­o­neer Foods and the Cham­ber of Bak­ing said that while they sup­ported the spirit of the law, the pro­pos­als for 2018 would re­quire changes to pro­cesses and in­gre­di­ents that would force them to in­crease their bread prices.

“Let’s not beat about the bush … it’s not go­ing to be an easy thing to do,” said Vasu Mood­ley, pres­i­dent of the Cham­ber of Bak­ing, which counts Tiger Brands and Food Corp among its mem­bers.

He said the 2016 thresh­olds of 400mg of sodium per 100g (about two slices) of bread were fea­si­ble, but the 2018 thresh­old of 370mg sodium per 100g would change the taste, tex­ture and bread-mak­ing process to such an ex­tent that new in­gre­di­ents and ma­chin­ery would be needed.

“The fact is when you have to make those changes, it does have an im­pact on the price that the con­sumer is go­ing to pay,” he said. The Cham­ber of Bak­ing was eval­u­at­ing the fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions of the pro­posed reg­u­la­tions, he said.

Salt also helped pre­serve bread, so if there was less of it, loaves would go stale quicker, he said.

“Ul­ti­mately the in­dus­try needs to work with the gov­ern­ment to find an ami­ca­ble so­lu­tion that meets our re­quire­ments and en­sures the health of our na­tion,” said Mr Mood­ley.

The Depart­ment of Health’s head of non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, Melvyn Free­man, said the gov­ern­ments’ pro­pos­als were en­tirely fea­si­ble: “From what we hear from else­where in the world, they are reach­able tar­gets,” he said.

“They (bread mak­ers) say to us that their par­tic­u­lar grain is dif­fer­ent from that in the UK, and there­fore the pro­cesses are slightly dif­fer­ent … but when (Univer­sity of Cape Town re­searchers) did a trial in the Western Cape they seemed to man­age to bake the breads to our re­quired stan­dard with­out it hav­ing much of a taste or pro­duc­tion im­pli­ca­tion.”

“We are not con­vinced it can’t be done,” he said.

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