Its new Salt Strategy, launched this week (March 12), aimed to encourage firms to reformulate recipes on the basis of lower salt targets, to be revised below the 2012 salt targets by the end of the year.
The new targets are part of the Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD).
Other measures include:
- Persuading more companies to sign up to salt reduction
- Urging firms to help people choose lower salt options
- Pushing the catering and takeaway sectors to do more. This will involve setting new maximum targets for popular foods, such as chips and sandwiches.
The DH targets involve cutting salt intake by a quarter from a current average of 8.1g a day to the target of 6g a day.
Anna Soubry, public health minister, said: “The UK is world-leading in salt reduction but more needs to be done to reach our goal of no more than 6g a day. This is because eating too much salt can have a serious impact on people’s health – causing high blood pressure, which could lead to heart disease and stroke. Currently 90 companies have signed up to make salt reduction a priority, and we want to see real action from many more.”
Soubry added that the voluntary approach, set out in the PHRD, was working. But more needed to be achieved – particularly in the catering and takeaway sectors.
Dr Susan Jebb, chair of the Responsibility Deal Food Network, said it was essential that the food industry maintained the momentum in efforts to reduce dietary salt if many of “the thousands of premature deaths each year” from stroke and heart disease linked to eating too much salt were to be prevented.
“Today is the start of the next phase of the salt reduction work. This strategy combines work to develop new targets for reformulation, with action to urge more companies to play their full part and renewed efforts to encourage consumers to do more to reduce the salt we’re eating,” said Jebb.
But the campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) said the government should consider legislation to ensure the food industry’s cooperation.
Graham MacGregor, Professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary, University of London, and CASH chairman, said: “The UK, through the work of CASH and the Food Standards Agency, has already resulted in a 15% reduction in salt intake, saving more than 9,000 lives from strokes and heart attacks every year.
“Salt reduction is the single most cost-effective public health intervention, and the UK has led the world. While we strongly support the new initiative, we must now consider legislation to ensure all sections of the food industry do comply.”
The launch of the Salt Strategy coincides with National Salt Awareness Week 2013, which began on Monday (March 11).
Salt in numbers
- 25 – Percentage reduction in salt consumption
- 6 – Grams of salt a day target
- 8.1 – Grams of current salt intake a day
- 53 – Percentage of public who rarely or never consider the amount of salt when buying food
- 86 – Percentage of the public who know too much salt is bad for their health
- 90 – Number of firms that have signed the salt reduction pledge