Health minister Melanie Johnson has rejected as inadequate food industry proposals to cut the level of salt in processed foods.
The Government wants to reduce the average daily intake of salt from 25g to 6g to cut the incidence of heart disease and strokes.
But Johnson said industry plans represented a "disappointingly low average reduction of 0.6g a day by 2005" and would leave 50% of products such as pizzas, sandwiches and ready meals with still unacceptably high levels of salt.
Johnson has given the industry until 18 September to come up with revised plans or face the prospect of warning labels on high-salt products.
To comply with the Government target, salt levels would need to be cut by 43% in sausages, by 40% in beefburgers, by 38% in ready meals and by more than one-third in baked beans.
Companies that responded to the Government's call for proposals last autumn include supermarkets, big brands such as Heinz and Unilever, fast-food giant McDonald's and Compass Group's schools caterer, Scolarest.
Other respondents included the British Hospitality Association, the Local Authority Caterers Association and food and farming organisations.
Compass said it was "extremely surprised and very disappointed" at the Government's rejection.
by Angela Frewin
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