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How French baguettes have become healthier

Salt reduction has now reached 20% in eight years - have you noticed any difference in taste?

French baguettes in a metal basket in a French boulangerie

Baguettes typically have less salt in them today than they did in 2015, a new report has found Pic: wideonet / Shutterstock

Traditional breads in France including baguettes have reduced their salt content by 20% compared to eight years ago, according to the country’s agriculture ministry.

It said on average there was 1.7g of salt per 100g of bread in 2015, falling to 1.34g/100g in July 2022.

The revelation comes after the baking industry backed a collective agreement in March 2022 to “maximum salt thresholds” in all categories of bread by 2025.

As part of this, the interim target was to cut salt to 1.5 per 100g by July last year. 

A new report by the food observatory Observatoire de l'alimentation found 82.5% of traditional and common bread had met this target. 

“These good results must now be extended to all types of bread,” said the agriculture ministry. 

The bakery industry must now hit the targets of no more than 1.4g per 100g for everyday bread, 1.3g/100g for wholemeal or cereal-rich bread, and 1.2g/100g for sliced bread.

It comes as members of the World Health Organization (WHO), including France, have committed to reducing global salt consumption by 30% overall by 2025.

Read also: French baguette-baking considered for Unesco intangible heritage list 
Read also: ‘A nice sheen’, ‘a honeycombed crumb’: France’s best baguette revealed

Less salt ‘could save seven million lives’

In a release from March this year, WHO said that “sodium [salt], an essential nutrient, increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and premature death when eaten in excess” and that “implementing highly cost-effective sodium reduction policies could save an estimated 7 million lives globally by 2030”.

It said that the global average salt intake is estimated to be 10.8 grams per day, more than double the WHO recommendation of less than 5 grams of salt per day (one teaspoon). 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “Unhealthy diets are a leading cause of death and disease globally, and excessive sodium intake is one of the main culprits…leaving people at risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems.”

Other illnesses caused or worsened by excess salt consumption include gastric cancer, osteoporosis and kidney disease.

The WHO also called on countries to:

  • Reformulate foods to contain less salt 

  • Set targets for the amount of sodium in foods and meals

  • Limit salt in public institutions such as hospitals and schools

  • Introduce labelling on the front of food packages to help shoppers choose lower-salt products 

  • Use mass media communication and campaigns to reduce salt consumption

Read also

Five things they don’t tell you about baguettes in France

Learn from the French: how to order the perfect baguette

French ‘cannot tell a good baguette anymore’ says bread historian

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