CASH warns of rampant salt levels in food and beverages

Univar emphasises salt reduction with expanded Kudos distribution agreement
Credit: Sunny Forest

With less than nine months to go for food manufacturers and retailers to meet the 2017 Salt Reduction Targets, Consensus Action on Salt and Health has warned of the endemic salt levels in common foods and beverages.

A new survey from Cash found that, out of 28 food categories analysed, only bread rolls has so far met the 2017 maximum, but not the average, salt target and are alarmed by the lack of action so far by manufacturers and Public Health England.

The product survey which was conducted using the new and updated FoodSwitch UK app and its SaltSwitch filter, compared two shopping baskets each containing similar everyday food items, but with different amounts of salt. The difference in salt content between the ‘unhealthy’ and ‘healthy’ baskets of products was a staggering 57g of salt.

Among the more surprising findings was the shock that Galaxy Ultimate Marshmallow Hot Chocolate contained 0.8g salt per serving, five times more talk (per 100g) the maximum salt reduction target for beverages.

What’s more, the FoodSwitch UK app was able to demonstrate in all 28 categories there were products with at least 30% less salt, which would meet the maximum salt reduction target is achievable, yet manufacturers, it said, are dragging their heels.

To mark its 18th National Salt Awareness Week (20-26 March 2017), supported by 19 NGOs, CASH is now calling for Public Health England (PHE) to immediately ensure that the 2017 targets are met and that new salt reduction targets for 2020 are set.

By dithering, it said, PHE are wasting a very cost-effective opportunity to prevent ~14,000 deaths every year, by reducing salt intakes from the current 8g to the recommended 6g, which is predicted to save the NHS a further £3 billion a year.

According to a separate independent national poll, only 40% of people know that a teaspoon (6g) of salt is the maximum amount of salt you should have in a day, with nearly a quarter of the population (23%) being unsure what the correct answer is.

The general population believed that the following three food items contributed the most to the salt intake of people in the UK: Ready meals, crisps & other savoury snacks, and salt added to food when cooking.

However, the correct answers are bread and cereal products, which actually contribute nearly a quarter of the salt in the UK’s diet. In other words PHE are also failing to educate the public about the risks they’re running in eating too much salt.  Interestingly, over half (58%) of respondents believe it should be the responsibility of the food industry to proactively reduce salt content in their products.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH, said: “This is a national scandal. The UK was leading the world in salt reduction, but PHE are doing nothing to ensure that the 2017 salt targets are met.

“NICE clearly demonstrated the huge cost savings for the NHS of salt reduction (1g reduction saves £1.5 billion per year, at a cost of less than half a million pounds a year). PHE should seize this opportunity and ensure the 2017 targets are met, as well as setting new mandatory targets for 2020, to ensure that we continue to lead the world and save the maximum number of lives.”