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Health officials 'dithering' over salt levels

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
salt shaker lying in salt

20th March 2017 – Campaigners calling for food manufacturers to cut the amount of salt in products say "dithering" by public officials is contributing to around 14,000 unnecessary deaths in England each year.

A survey by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) found that Public Health England's 2017 salt reduction targets are only being met in 1 out of 28 food categories.

CASH is urging Public Health England (PHE) to ensure that, with only 9 months left, food manufacturers and retailers meet the targets and set fresh ones for 2020.

PHE says it's encouraging the food industry to do more to meet targets by the end of this year.

Missing the salt targets

The product survey found that so far only bread rolls had met this year's target for the maximum amount of salt, although even in this category the average target is still being missed.

It was conducted using a smartphone app called FoodSwitch UK which can compare the amount of salt in different food items.

foodswitch-cash.jpg

A comparison of 2 shopping baskets containing similar items everyday items showed that the difference between 'healthy' and 'unhealthy' salt levels amounted to 57g of salt – the equivalent of around 130 bags of crisps.

It found that in all 28 categories there were products with at least 30% less salt, which would meet the maximum salt reduction target.

'Saltier than seawater'

The findings also reveal that many products exceed the maximum salt reduction targets. For instance:

  • Galaxy Ultimate Marshmallow Hot Chocolate was found to be saltier than seawater, with 16 times more salt per 100g than the maximum target for beverages
  • Aldi The Fishmonger Piri Piri Smoked Mackerel Fillets had 4 times more salt per 100g than the maximum salt reduction target for fish-based meals
  • Baxters Chef Selections Cullen Skink had more than 1.5 times the amount of salt per 100g than the maximum salt reduction target for soup

According to CASH, the shopping basket analysis shows that the goal for adults to have no more than 6g of salt each – or around 1 teaspoon – each day is achievable if manufacturers stopped "dragging their heels".

CASH says PHE should stop "dithering" and get tough on food manufacturers.

The call comes at the start of its 18th National Salt Awareness Week.

'We know there's more to do'

In reply Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, says in an emailed statement: "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."

A 3g reduction of daily salt intake could lead to a £350 million saving in NHS healthcare costs.

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