Agency publishes 2012 salt reduction targets
Monday 18 May 2009
As part of its continued drive to reduce people’s risk of developing coronary heart disease, the Food Standards Agency has today published revised, voluntary salt reduction targets for industry to meet by 2012.
More challenging targets for 2012 have been set for 80 categories of foods, to ensure the momentum in reducing salt levels is maintained by food retailers and manufacturers. The revised targets also reflect the Agency’s long-term commitment to reducing the daily average population intake of salt to 6g a day.
Around 75% of the salt we eat is already in everyday foods. The targets have been set for foods that make the greatest contribution of salt to our diet, such as bread, meat products and cereals, as well as convenience foods such as pizza, ready meals and savoury snacks.
When the 2010 targets were first set in 2006, the Agency committed to reviewing them in 2008. During this review the Agency welcomed the considerable reductions that have been made by many manufacturers and retailers. The revised targets reflect this progress. However, there remains significant variation in salt levels that exist between different products and there is clearly scope for some parts of industry to do more.
The Agency intends to monitor closely both the progress towards meeting the targets, and the achievability of the 2012 targets. Continued, regular dialogue and close partnership working with industry will help to identify any difficulties encountered as well as provide opportunities to report back on progress.
Rosemary Hignett, Head of Nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, said: 'The UK is leading the way in Europe and beyond in salt reduction. The reductions which have already been achieved in the UK are already saving lives.
'To continue to make progress we have set 2012 targets at levels that will make a further real impact on consumers’ intakes, while taking into account technical and safety issues associated with taking salt out of food.
'We welcome the reductions in salt levels that have already been achieved by industry, and its continued cooperation is vital if we are to continue to improve public health. The 2012 targets are challenging, but we also believe them to be achievable, though we will continue to monitor this.
'The public health case for reducing the amount of salt in people’s diets to 6g a day is as strong as ever.'
To ensure people have all the information they need to look after their own and their family’s health, there will be further public awareness activity on salt in autumn 2009. The Agency will continue to monitor salt intakes, public awareness, and the levels of salt in food on a biennial basis. The next review of industry progress towards meeting the targets will begin in 2010.
1. A limited number of 2010 targets have also been revised, for foods where there has already been considerable progress by industry in meeting them, or where those targets have already been met.
2. The reduction that has been achieved to date in the daily average population salt intake (0.9g) has been shown to yield annual cost saving benefits of £1.5 billion
3. The FSA’s salt campaign
The salt campaign was launched in September 2004 as part of the Agency’s strategy to reduce population average salt intakes to 6g.
The first phase of the salt campaign featured Sid the Slug and focused on raising awareness of too much salt as a health issue. Phase 2, launched in October 2005, featured talking food packets and raised awareness of the ‘no more than 6g a day’ message and checking labels for this information. Phase 3 in March 2007 built on this awareness, reminding consumers that 75% of the salt we eat is already in everyday foods and we should continue check labels and choose options lower in salt.
4. Salt intakes
There has been an encouraging decline in salt levels since the Agency began its work on salt. The latest evidence estimates that the UK’s average daily salt consumption stands at 8.6g. This represents an overall drop of 0.9g since 2000/1.
The daily recommended maximum intake of salt is lower for children than for adults, and depends on the child’s age:
- 1 to 3 years – 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
- 4 to 6 years – 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
- 7 to 10 years – 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
- 11 and over – 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium)
The foods that contribute salt to children’s diets are generally the same as those that contribute salt to adult’s diets.
6. The science behind 6g
The Agency's advice on salt intake for adults and children is based on sound science, underpinned by the recommendations of the independent Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which carried out a thorough and comprehensive risk assessment on salt and associated health outcomes.
The compelling evidence for an association between salt and blood pressure is described in detail in SACN’s report, Salt and Health (2003). SACN identified and evaluated the evidence relevant to an association between salt intake and health outcomes from a wide range of published scientific evidence (approximately 200 studies) that had become available since COMA’s considerations in the early 1990s, and the recommendations made at that time to reduce the salt intakes of the UK population to 6g.
SACN concluded that the evidence for a link between salt intake and blood pressure had increased since 1994. The current high levels of salt habitually consumed by the population raise the risk of high blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke and premature death from cardiovascular diseases. SACN confirmed that the population as a whole would benefit from reducing their intake to 6g per day. SACN also set lower recommended maximum levels of salt intake for babies and children. The 6g target is supported by many medical and research bodies including the BMA and the MRC.
Eating too much salt is a significant risk factor in developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure can triple the risk of heart disease and stroke and reducing the daily UK salt intake to 6g could prevent an average of 20,200 premature deaths a year. (Joint FSA/DoH analysis extrapolated for the Strategy Unit (unpublished); quoted in the Cabinet Office (2008), Food Matters: Towards A Strategy for the 21st Century).
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