Why does bread contain salt?

Salt is an essential ingredient in bread. It contributes to the taste and it controls fermentation, a key part of the bread making process.

Why does the body need salt?

It is the sodium (ions) present in salt that the body requires in order to perform a variety of essential functions. Salt helps maintain the fluid in our blood cells and is used to transmit information in our nerves and muscles. It is also used in the uptake of certain nutrients from our small intestines. The body cannot make salt and so we are reliant on food to ensure that we get the required intake.

Medical evidence shows that too much salt (sodium) in the diet can contribute to high blood pressure and has been linked to increased risk of other diseases.

What is the difference between sodium and salt?

Salt is also known as sodium chloride. It’s the sodium in salt that can be bad for your health. Sodium is usually listed in the nutrition information on food labels. Salt is not legally required to be listed but many companies provide this information in addition to the sodium level. The salt figure is obtained by multiplying the sodium value by 2.5 so if a food contains 1.2g sodium then it contains 1.2 x 2.5 = 3g salt.

How will I know how much salt is in the bread that I buy?

The bread that FOB members produce is wrapped and the sodium and salt content are clearly labelled on the pack.

Salt in Bread

The UK government has set a target of reducing the average salt consumption for adults to 6g per day. It also set for the first time levels for children.

Around 75% of salt comes from processed food. The rest is added by consumers at home at the table or during cooking, or eaten as part of food eaten out of the home. Of the total about 17% of salt in the diet comes from bread as it is a staple food consumed by most people in the country.

Federation of Bakers’ members have made significant reductions in the amount of salt that is in bread over the last decade with around a 10% reduction just in the last three years. Since the 1980’s the salt level in bread has been reduced by over 40%. Federation of Bakers’ members have implemented salt reductions to meet the Department of Health’s 2012 target of 0.40g per 100g (1g salt) of bread.

Since then discussions have taken place with the Department of Health regarding a new pledge on salt under the Responsibility Deal.  This was introduced in early 2014 and is now established as a 2017 target.  It is a 10% reduction on the 2012 target.

Further reductions are very challenging for the bread industry as salt has a significant technological role in bread-making.  However, bakers are committed to working with DH to continue to investigate ways of reducing salt.

The UK has one of the lowest levels of salt in bread in the world.

For further information please download our Factsheet No. 21 – Salt in Bread.