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UK leading the world in salt reduction

21 June 2012

• UK now has the lowest salt intake of any developed country in the world
• Salt intakes have fallen in adults from 9.5g to 8.1 g per day since 2005,                             
  saving approximately 8,500 lives every year
• Success of UK salt reduction is thanks to rigorous setting of voluntary salt targets to be achieved by the food industry
• Other countries urged to follow UK’s lead and act now to save thousands of lives

21.06.12 The Department of Health, England, [Ref 1] today announced that, since the setting of the UK’s salt targets seven years ago, salt intake has fallen in adults from 9.5g to 8.1 g per day, i.e. approximately 1.5g per person, per day.  

This is now the lowest salt intake of any developed country in the world. Studies suggest that this 1.5g reduction in average daily salt intake, through the reduction it has on blood pressure, will prevent approximately 20,000 strokes, heart attacks and heart failure, 8,500 of which are fatal, in the UK every year.  This provides huge cost savings to the NHS.  If the UK achieved the 6g target, an estimated 17,000 lives a year would be saved [Ref 2]. Simply by following this successful public health programme, similar percentage reductions would also occur in other countries.

This successful policy depends on the rigorous setting of progressively lower salt targets, which are adopted voluntarily by the food industry.  Many countries including the US, Canada and Australia are now following the UK’s lead and setting their own targets.  The importance of salt targets is widely recognised as the simplest, most cost effective measure to reduce population level salt intake. Targets enable food manufacturers to have a ‘level playing field’, whereby all food companies make gradual reduction in line with each other. South Africa, who has taken a legislative approach, has done so with the support of the food industry to further ensure this ‘level playing field’.

Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Wolfson Institute and Chairman of World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) comments:  “This is great news for the UK and the world. This one and a half gram reduction in salt intake shows progress is happening; we do however recognise there is still some way to go to reach the global target of 5g salt a day.  Our salt intakes have come down thanks to a clear set of voluntary salt targets that were developed by our UK group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) and the Food Standards Agency, which have largely been achieved by the responsible food manufacturers [Ref 3].

Clare Farrand, Public Health Nutritionist at WASH comments: ”It is encouraging for other countries (around the world) to see that progress can be achieved, especially those considering, or starting to embark on a salt reduction programme. The success of the UK policy will encourage other developed countries to set their own targets, as it is the simplest, most effective way to reduce salt intake.  It is therefore vitally important that the UK continues to lead the way.  Countries around the world now need to take action as salt reduction is the single most cost effective public health policy.”

Ref 1 
• The mean estimated salt intake, derived from urinary sodium excretion, for adults aged 19 to 64 years was 8.1g per day, with men having a mean estimated intake of 9.3g per day and women having a mean estimated intake of 6.8g per day
• Overall, 70% of participants had a daily intake of salt higher than the recommended maximum of no more than 6g per day; 80% of men and 58% of women exceeded this recommendation 

Ref 2 He FJ & MacGregor GA. How Far Should Salt be Reduced? Hypertension (2003) 42: 1093-1099.

Ref 3 - The salt pledge as part of the Department of Health’s Responsibility Deal states
“We commit to the salt targets for the end of 2012 agreed by the Responsibility Deal, which collectively will deliver a further 15 per cent reduction on 2010 targets. For some products this will require acceptable technical solutions which we are working to achieve. These targets will give a total salt reduction of nearly 1g per person per day compared to 2007 levels in food. We recognise that achieving the public health goal of consuming no more than 6g of salt per person per day will necessitate action across the whole industry, Government, NGOs and individuals.”



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