New data shows salt consumption is decreasing, but remains at unhealthy levels

Salt consumption is at unhealthy levels

New data from Public Health England’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that adults in England have cut their salt intake by almost 1g over the last decade to 8g per day – but both PHE and campaigners say there is still work to be done before we reach the recommended 6g per day for good health.

A diet that is high in salt can result in hypertension or high blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The British Heart Foundation estimates that up to 7 million people in the UK may be living with undiagnosed high blood pressure. A high salt intake has also recently been linked with obesity.

PHE estimates that a further reduction from the current 8g to 6g could prevent 8,000 deaths in England and save the NHS around £570million per year.

Everyday foods

Salted Crisps

Around 75% of the salt we consume is in the everyday foods we buy and eat, and although many manufacturers reformulated certain products – such as crisps, bread and cereals - to meet salt reduction targets set prior to 2010 by the Food Standards Agency, PHE and campaigners say more needs to be done to continue to bring salt consumption down. Since 2010, voluntary salt reduction targets were set for manufacturers by the Department of Health under what is known as ‘The Responsibility Deal’, a deal which campaigners say has ceased to exist under the current government.

Recent research carried out by Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH), an independent body of campaigners with 25 food and nutrition experts among its members, revealed that a number of everyday staple foods – including cheddar cheeses, tinned soups and some ready meals - actually contained more salt than they did previously, with the potential for causing consumer confusion.

CASH is calling for an independent agency for nutrition with regulated targets for salt, saturated fat and sugar, enforced by an authoritative and transparent monitoring system. If the target 6g is achieved throughout the UK, CASH estimates strokes could potentially be reduced by 22% and heart attacks by 16%, with an estimated 17,000 lives saved.

“More to be done, especially by restaurants, cafes and takeaways”

Restaurant Serving Food

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, says: “Our analysis makes clear that there is a steady downward trend in salt consumption. While people are having less salt than 10 years ago, we are still eating a third more than we should.

“The majority of the salt we eat is in everyday foods so it’s important to check labels and choose lower salt options. Many manufacturers and retailers have significantly reduced the salt levels in everyday foods. However, more needs to be done, especially by restaurants, cafes and takeaways.”

For tips on how you can reduce your salt intake, visit the NHS Change4Life website.

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