PARIS (Reuters) – France’s beloved bread loaf, the baguette, may be about to lose some of its bite, with politicians looking into the health risks of additives set to propose legislation forcing bakers and processed food makers more generally to slash salt content.
After months of investigation and hearings, a parliamentary committee has come to the conclusion that voluntary agreements on the reduction of high salt levels have not been respected and that it is time to impose healthier norms via legislation.
That committee is due to present its proposals in September but the drift of what is on the way was made clear on Wednesday by key people involved in the deliberations.
“It’s a real public health problem,” said Loic Prud’homme, one of a 20-member parliamentary committee looking into the matter.
Michele Crouzet, another committee member, said the daily intake of salt in France, at about 10 to 12 grams, is still double the limit recommended by the World Health Organization.
Excessive salt levels are linked to cardiovascular trouble, which in France is the second-biggest killer among health problems.
Crouzet said the committee could propose a tax on salt like one already introduced in France on the sugar content of fizzy drinks. But some say that levy has been ineffective because manufacturers are shifting to other forms of sweetener.
“What we can now say is that voluntary agreements do not work and it’s now time to switch to binding constraints,” Prud’homme told Reuters.
In the case of the baguette, and bread more generally, voluntary agreements struck in 2002 had sought to limit the salt level to 18 grams per kilo of flour within five years, he said. Some 16 years later, that goal had still not been met.
“In any event what’s certain is that it’s now time to move via sturdy legislation, which could involve setting constraints in gram terms for salt,” he said in a separate interview on a public service radio station, francinfo.
A report to be presented by the committee will also seek to tackle excessive use of other additives in processed food and pre-prepared meals, and seek curbs on advertising that aims to promote less-than-healthy food among children, said Prud’homme.
(Reporting by Brian Love and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Andrew Bolton)