25 Apr 2017 Guest Blog: Salt, The Forgotten Killer
About CASH: Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) was set up in 1996 as a response to the refusal of the Chief Medical Officer to endorse the COMA recommendations to reduce salt intake. Supported by 25 expert scientific members, CASH is working to reach a consensus with the food industry and the government over the harmful effects of a high salt diet, and bring about a reduction in the amount of salt in processed foods. For more information, please visit http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/
A decade ago the UK led the world in salt reduction. In 2006 the Food Standards Agency (FSA), together with Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), set salt reduction targets for over 80 categories of food which the food industry could voluntarily adhere to. New, lower targets were set in 2008 and manufacturers responded once more. As a result, UK salt intake fell from 9.5g to 8.1g per day by 2012, one of the lowest intakes in the developed world. Then in 2014, as part of the Public Health Responsibility Deal, the Department of Health set new targets to be achieved by 2017, but following the 2015 election the Responsibility Deal was dissolved. As the food industry became responsible for policing itself, salt levels in our foods were no longer monitored and little action was taken to ensure the targets were achieved – halting our successful reduction programme, with minimal progress made since.
Although salt intakes have decreased, we are still consuming a third more than the maximum recommended amount of 6g per day. Most people do not know that they are consuming too much, as around 75% of the salt we eat is already present in foods. Too much salt in our diet raises blood pressure – the main cause of strokes and a major cause of heart attacks and heart failures.
Salt Awareness Week Survey
This year as part of our 18th National Salt Awareness Week, CASH conducted a survey comparing two shopping baskets of everyday food items, with differing amounts of salt. The difference in salt content between the baskets was 60g, equivalent to 130 bags of ready salted crisps!
Worryingly, only one of the 28 categories of food included in the survey (bread rolls) had met its 2017 salt target. Some products contained vast amounts of salt that far exceeded their respective targets– such as Aldi Smoked Mackerel Fillets with Piri Piri Flavouring that had four times as much salt as the target for meal centres, and Galaxy Ultimate Marshmallow Hot Chocolate which had five times more salt than the target for beverages.
All of the lower salt products had at least 30% less salt per 100g than their counterpart. The two brands of granola cereal had a staggering 97% difference – proof that achieving lower levels of salt is feasible and clearly demonstrates that the high salt levels found in many everyday products are completely unnecessary.
The food industry must continue reformulating products to ensure that salt levels are reduced. The government must also do their part to ensure that the 2017 targets are met, and new mandatory targets are put in place for 2020. By simply reducing salt intakes from 8g to 6g per day, roughly 14,000 deaths could be prevented annually, which would save the NHS £3billion a year.
We can all play our part too by checking labels and choosing lower salt products. An easy way to do this is with an app such as FoodSwitch UK – a free app that scans the barcode of packaged food and drink products and shows whether they are high (red), medium (amber) or low (green) in fat, saturates, sugar and salt. It also suggests similar, healthier products to switch to, including lower salt products. For more information visit http://www.foodswitch.co.uk/