Few Foods on Track to Meet 2017 Salt Reduction Targets, Research Reveals

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21 Mar 2017 --- Only 1 out of the 28 food categories surveyed by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) are on track to meet Public Health England’s (PHE) 2017 Salt Reduction Targets. The new findings come just 9 months ahead of when the targets are due to be in place.

At present, CASH state that bread rolls are the only manufactured foodstuff likely to meet the 2017 salt-reduction targets.

CASH is now urge PHE to immediately ensure that the 2017 targets are met, as well as urgently set mandatory targets for 2020 - something that many leading supermarkets have also asked for.

Katharine Jenner, Registered Nutritionist and Campaign Director for CASH described salt as “the forgotten killer”, and said, “the findings from our FoodSwitch shopping basket survey are alarming and we are shocked to see that many food manufacturers and retailers are still failing to meet the salt reduction targets, despite having had years to work towards them.”

“We congratulate the other, more responsible manufacturers that have successfully achieved them, or are on track to meet them by the end of the year – which shows it is possible.”

Jenner stressed, “With only nine months to go, action must be taken now.” 

However, chief nutritionist at Public Health England (PHE), Dr Alison Tedstone, told NutritionInsight that the food industry has reduced the amount of salt found in our foods by 11% in recent years, calling it, “encouraging progress.”

“We know there is more to do,” said Tedstone, “This is why we’re talking to retailers, manufacturers, and the eating out of home sector on how they go further and faster to reaching the 2017 salt reduction targets.”

Tim Rycroft, Director of Corporate Affairs at the Food and Drink Federation, also spoke to NutritionInsight, and said that food producers have continued to invest heavily to adapt the recipes of some of Britain's biggest and best-loved brands to voluntarily reduce levels of salt in their products, “without compromising on taste, quality or safety,” he said.

“As the work has progressed, many companies are finding reductions harder to achieve without compromising product safety or jeopardizing taste, texture or shelf-life,” Rycroft said.

“Increased funding for pre-competitive research would help companies overcome shared barriers to further salt reductions.”

“In addition to salt, UK food and drink producers continue to look for and develop opportunities to reduce calories, sugars and fats, while boosting fiber and micronutrients to contribute to an overall holistic approach to public health.”

“Most ingredients in a food perform a wide range of functions, and go well beyond adding flavor, such as providing texture or shelf-life.”

Despite reassurance from the food industry, CASH say that PHE are wasting a very cost-effective opportunity to prevent 14,000 deaths every year, something that they say can be done by reducing salt intakes from the current 8g to the recommended 6g, which is predicted to save the NHS a further £3billion ($3.7billion) a year.

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH called the situation, “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,” Graham stated.

“The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) clearly demonstrated the huge cost savings for the NHS of salt reduction (1g reduction saves £1.5 billion ($1.9billion) per year, at a cost of less than half a million pounds (>$620,800) 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.” 

by Hannah Gardiner

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