Global partnership needed to cut high salt intakes

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt reduction, World health organization, Food

A worldwide partnership is needed to cut high intakes of salt, according to Tim Smith, chief executive of the Food Standards Agency.

Speaking at the world salt talks in London recently, Smith told delegates: "In the UK, we have seen a lot of progress made over the past few years in this area, as have a number of other countries. However, we all need to work together and tackle this as a worldwide problem if we are to be successful in reducing the impact on health of high salt intakes​."

The talks included a salt reduction forum, hosted by the Food Standards Agency and the World Health Organization (WHO), and meetings between experts, academics, government officials and WHO staff designed to establish a successful salt reduction strategy.

The group plans to publish a report that will set out recommendations to WHO on how salt in global diets could best be reduced.

Smith also underlined the importance of partnerhip at the WHO/FSA Salt Reduction Strategies Forum Millennium. "… all of us, need to think much more globally rather than nationally and work across borders​," he said.

Reformulation

"Lower salt Danish bacon or Irish cheese isn't just good for Danish consumers or Irish consumers – it's good for British consumers and French consumers and consumers in any other country that like imported Danish bacon or Irish Cheddar. We can all benefit from reformulation whichever country we live in, and it all helps with adjusting our taste for salt​."

This is a gradual, step-by-step process, he added. As manufacturers have been voluntarily removing salt from food in stages, so FSA has run public information campaigns in the UK in stages.

Meanwhile, partnership in salt reduction has already achieved impressive results. "By bringing the food industry together, by agreeing collective and realistic targets for reducing salt in a very wide range of foods, we have turned the tide on the levels of salt in food," ​said Smith.

"In fact, given the relatively modest cost of the salt campaign compared with other public health campaigns it is one of the most effective diet-related campaigns there has ever been​."

Processed foods

Over the past seven years, UK salt content in a wide range of processed foods has fallen while public awareness of the risks of too much salt has risen, he added.

According to a survey conducted in 2008, there has been a fall in the population's average daily intake from 9.5g to 8.6g. "Not close enough yet to the 6g ambition, to a cut of over a third in salt intake, but a significant reduction of 10 per cent that is already preventing premature deaths and, probably more importantly, preventing many years lived​," said Smith.

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