Councils have called on restaurants and pub chains to stop "dragging their heels" and sign up to salt reduction targets.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said just one restaurant group, Jamie's Italian, and one fast food chain, Subway, had committed to Department of Health voluntary targets launched almost five months ago to cut salt in the 10 most popular high street dishes.
These include chips, burgers, chicken portions, battered or breaded fish, pies, curries, beef steaks and grilled chicken, sandwiches, pasta meals and pizzas.
Current guidelines recommend adults consume no more than 6g of salt a day.
But the LGA said some restaurant and pub meals had been found to have up to 9g.
Despite a considerable dip in salt consumption, experts say levels are still far too high and more needs to be done to reduce people's intake.
The mean salt intake in England of 8.1 g/day in 2011 was still 35% higher than the recommended level of 6g/day, and 70% of the adult population (80% men and 58% women) had a daily salt intake above the recommended level.
Councillor Katie Hall, chairwoman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "The recommended daily target is 6g of salt per person - yet one pub or restaurant meal can take you well over this.
"Excessive salt is a major killer and not enough is being done to tackle it. Despite new targets set by government to bring restaurants in line with the rest of industry, they are lagging a long way behind. We think this is totally unacceptable.
"We need to tackle head-on excessive levels of salt in foods and the big high street restaurants and pubs chains need to get on board and commit swiftly.
"Many supermarkets have signed up to similar salt reduction government targets, which makes the reluctance of the restaurants even more surprising and indefensible.
"Government statistics show thousands of deaths from salt-related health issues like high blood pressure and strokes could be saved, along with hundreds of millions of pounds to the public health purse. This issue needs to be addressed by everyone in the food industry, quickly, comprehensively and above all robustly."
A Department of Health spokesperson said: " The UK's work on salt reduction is world leading.
"More than 70% of retailers and 65% of major high street restaurants and contract caterers have made a commitment to reduce salt through the Responsibility Deal. We are pleased that so many businesses have committed to the new targets but we want as many partners to commit.
"By working with industry, we are seeing real results. The salt reduction programme has reduced intake by 15% over a decade. This will help get the nation into healthier habits for life."