Salt initiative raises consumer awareness

By Sarah Britton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Salt intake Hypertension

Salt initiative raises consumer awareness
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) today launched the next stage of its campaign to encourage consumers to reduce their salt intake by checking food...

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) today launched the next stage of its campaign to encourage consumers to reduce their salt intake by checking food labels and eating a maximum of six grams of salt a day.

Sales of household salt had dropped by 10% over the past year and 46% of adults were trying to cut down on their salt intake, claimed the FSA. It said that eating too much salt was a significant risk factor in developing high blood pressure, which caused over 170,000 deaths a year in England. People derive most of the salt intake from eating processed foods.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) remained in favour of the campaign. “UK food manufacturers are committed to further reformulation of products and support the FSA aim of raising consumer awareness,” said FDF deputy director general Martin Paterson. “We are doing our bit by reducing salt in a huge range of products and providing better, simpler information through improved labelling.”

Despite strong support from the FDF and the British Heart Foundation, the FSA's initiative has come up against criticism from some sectors. “No one has yet proved that cutting salt produces any long term health benefits for the general population,” said Peter Sherratt of the Salt Manufacturers Association (SMA). “We should not be experimenting with the public's health.”

The SMA claimed that athletes, the elderly and pregnant women were all potentially at risk from following blanket advice to cut their salt intake. It said that a daily salt intake of six grams was insufficient for athletes, whose sodium levels deplete when they sweat, while pre-eclampsia, a condition that affects nearly 10% of pregnant women, could be worsened by a low salt diet.

US nutritionist Dr David McCarron felt that the UK's current “obsession” with salt was “irrelevant” and that eating low fat dairy products, fruit and vegetables was the best way to avoid high blood pressure.

However, Peter Hollins, director general of the British Heart Foundation said: “We are delighted to support the FSA's campaign, which highlights the dangers of eating too much salt. High blood pressure is a major risk factor a for heart disease and one most people can tackle by simply cutting down the salt in their diet.”

The FSA has been working with retailers and manufacturers since 2003 to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods. It aims to reduce the UK's daily salt intake to six grams by 2010.

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