PHE’s chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said: “Our salt consumption has decreased over the last decade – a loaf of bread has 40% less than it used to. However, some products are still too high in salt and we know this can be reduced further.
“We’ve been very clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. We’ll report on their progress next year and will provide advice to government on the next steps.”
The chief nutritionist’s comments followed new research by CASH, based at Queen Mary University of London, which was said to reveal many companies had failed to cut salt, despite having only three weeks to reach the 2017 salt targets.
Eating a sausage sandwich for breakfast could provide more salt than a double cheeseburger and large fries, it claimed. Some vegetarian sausages can contain more salt than half a Pizza Hut Margherita Pizza, it was claimed.
‘Get tough on the food industry’
CASH urged PHE to “get tough on the food industry” and set new mandatory targets for 2020.
The survey, conducted using the new FoodSwitch UK app, claimed that the average salt content of sausages was 1.3g/100g, or 1.16g of salt per two sausages. “A figure that has remained relatively unchanged since 2011, exceeding the salt reduction targets in place at that time,” according to CASH.
“As the 2017 voluntary salt targets set by PHE are due to be met in just three weeks’ time, CASH is calling for mandatory salt targets to be set, as the food industry has failed to protect the public’s health voluntarily.”
‘Mandatory salt targets’
Professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and CASH chairman Graham MacGregor said the UK had led the world on salt reduction but the survey revealed many companies were not cooperating with the current voluntary policy.
“PHE, which is now responsible, must get tough on those companies not complying and set new mandatory targets to be achieved by 2020 without further delay,” said MacGregor.
“Otherwise, thousands of people will die from unnecessary strokes and heart attacks every year. Salt reduction is the most cost-effective and most successful public health preventive measure made to date, and it is a national tragedy that it is being allowed to fail.”