Public Health England (PHE) has announced new voluntary salt reduction targets in food to support the government’s commitment to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. The announcement was made during the Cardiovascular Disease Conference in London.
The next stage of engagement is now set to begin with the food industry and health charities on new voluntary salt targets, involving discussions on the technical aspects of further reducing the salt added to everyday foods.
This follows the government’s commitment in its Green Paper, Advancing Our Health: Prevention in the 2020s, to reduce salt in foods as part of a wider programme of work to lower salt consumption. This will significantly impact on cardiovascular disease (CVD), help reduce pressure on the NHS, and ultimately save lives.
The government recommends that adults eat no more than 6g salt per day. Although new figures on the nation’s salt consumption are expected later this year, a survey in 2014 found that adults in England are consuming on average 8g, with some as much as over 20g a day.
The Green Paper sets out an ambition to reduce salt consumption across the population by a further 1g to 7g per day. This can only be achieved by a combination of reformulation action by the food industry and by consumers making healthier choices by checking labels and choosing lower salt products, as well as adding less salt to their food at the table.
Eating too much salt is a leading cause of raised blood pressure, leading to thousands of heart attacks, strokes and early deaths. In its Long Term Plan, the NHS reports that CVD is largely preventable. Reducing population salt consumption by 1g per day could prevent 1,500 premature deaths each year and save the NHS more than £140m annually.
CVD causes a quarter of all deaths in the UK and is the largest cause of premature mortality in deprived areas. People living in England’s most deprived areas are almost four times more likely to die prematurely of CVD than those in the least deprived area.
Over the past 13 years there have been four waves of decreasing voluntary salt targets for foods. This has been the basis of the UK’s world-leading salt reduction programme, which helped reduce salt consumption by 11% between 2006 and 2014. The programme sets out specific targets for different foods including bread, ready meals and breakfast cereals.
As most of the salt we consume is already in the food we buy, it’s important that industry continues its work to reduce salt in the foods it produces, building on the successes over the last decade, and helping make it easier for us all to eat less salt.
“The UK food industry has led the world in gradually reducing salt in foods resulting in huge amounts being taken out of the nation’s diet, with people barely noticing any difference in the taste to their food,” says Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE. “Good progress has been made but many of us are still eating too much salt including from everyday foods. The health risks can be devastating as too much salt can increase our risk of high blood pressure, leading to heart disease and stroke.”