ASA courts fresh controversy over LoSalt decision

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Blood pressure, Potassium

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has become embroiled in controversy again over its decision to uphold a complaint against Lo Salt.The Food...

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has become embroiled in controversy again over its decision to uphold a complaint against Lo Salt.

The Food Standards Agency has also come under fire over the ‘expert advice’ it gave to the ASA to inform its decision.
The ads claimed Lo Salt was “the healthier alternative” to salt on the grounds it had “66% less sodium than regular salts”. The complainant - a doctor - argued that Lo Salt’s high potassium chloride content (more than 50%) meant that for certain vulnerable groups, it was not a healthier alternative.
However, Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at St Georges University of London and chairman of the Blood Pressure Association, said he completely disagreed with the assessment. He added that he was “unable to understand” how the FSA could have supported it.
In a letter to the ASA challenging its decision, he said: “I have read the draft recommendation and I’m afraid that I disagree with the ASA’s opinion, and also the spokesman for the FSA.
“The evidence in my view is clear, based on studies in both individuals with high blood pressure and normal people. The claim that a mineral salt such as LoSalt is a healthier alternative to salt is entirely justified, particularly if there’s a warning label about patients consulting their doctor if they have kidney disease or diabetes.”
“Evidence that an increase in potassium is beneficial is based on epidemiological studies in man, careful studies in animals, and treatment trials. These have clearly shown that increasing potassium has a blood pressure lowering effect not only in those with raised blood pressure, but also in people with normal blood pressure.
“There is absolutely no dispute about this effect of potassium, and I am unable to understand how somebody from the FSA could say this is controversial. In relation to children, aged four to six years, I have seen no evidence whatsoever that they cannot handle a reasonably large amount of potassium. I would be interested to know on what the FSA spokesman bases this.
“It is far more dangerous in the long term to give children large amounts of salt which they are currently being fed in the UK. I have also seen no evidence whatsoever of the fact that elderly patients cannot handle a doubling in potassium intake.”
Lo Salt brand owner Klinge Foods acknowledged that potassium consumption was not advisable for certain groups. However, it said the risk was disproportionate to the benefits which could be realised if people with high blood pressure switched from regular salt to Lo Salt.
Sales and marketing manager Caroline Klinge said the company had asked about adding a disclaimer to the advert about people with certain health conditions and was told that the ad was too short to make the inclusion of a health warning feasible: “We were told we couldn’t put a disclaimer in the advert because it was too short.”

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