Only one out of 28 food categories are on track to meet 2017 salt reduction targets, a survey has found.
With less than nine months to go for food manufacturers and retailers to meet Public Health England's (PHE) 2017 targets, a survey by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) has found that only "bread rolls" have so far met the 2017 maximum, but not the average, salt target.
Cash is now asking PHE to immediately ensure that the 2017 targets are met and that they urgently set mandatory targets for 2020.
The product survey, which was conducted using the updated FoodSwitch UK app and its SaltSwitch filter, compared two shopping baskets each containing similar everyday food items, but with different amounts of salt.
The difference in salt content between the unhealthy and healthy baskets of products was 57g of salt.
Findings revealed many products exceed the maximum salt reduction targets.
Galaxy Ultimate Marshmallow Hot Chocolate is saltier than seawater and has 16 times more salt (per 100g) than the maximum target - one serving is saltier than a bag of crisps, the study found.
The app was able to demonstrate in all 28 categories there were products with at least 30% less salt, which would meet the maximum salt reduction target.
Cash said the shopping basket analysis reaffirms the public health goal of consuming no more than 6g of salt per person per day is achievable, but said manufacturers are dragging their heels.
Katharine Jenner, registered nutritionist and campaign director for Cash, said: "Salt is the forgotten killer.
The findings from our FoodSwitch shopping basket survey are alarming and we are shocked to see that many food manufacturers and retailers are still failing to meet the salt reduction targets, despite having had years to work towards them.
"We congratulate the other, more responsible manufacturers that have successfully achieved them, or are on track to meet them by the end of the year - which shows it is possible. With only nine months to go, action must be taken now."
Professor Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Cash, said: "This is a national scandal. The UK was leading the world in salt reduction, but PHE are doing nothing to ensure that the 2017 salt targets are met."
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: "The food industry has reduced the amount of salt found in our foods by 11% in recent years, which is encouraging progress.
"We know there is more to do. This is why we're talking to retailers, manufacturers, and the eating out of home sector on how they go further and faster to reaching the 2017 salt reduction targets."