The team of UK researchers examined four different approaches to salt reduction in the UK, and assessed their relative effectiveness based on a review of the scientific literature. The four approaches were: The Change4Life health promotion campaign; front-of-pack labelling of salt content; the Food Standards Agency (FSA) working with the food industry on a voluntary basis; and mandatory reformulation to reduce salt in processed foods.
“Each policy appeared cost saving, with mandatory reformulation offering the largest cost saving, more than £660 million,” the study’s authors wrote.
The cost assessment included costs to both the private sector in reformulation and labelling, and to the public sector in introducing the policy. Total cost savings were based on estimates of lowered blood pressure associated with lower salt intakes, and resulting lower risk of heart disease.
Based on the average UK daily salt intake of 8.1 g per day in 2011 and best estimates from previous studies, the researchers estimated that public education efforts, like the Change4Life campaign or labelling, would reduce salt consumption by about 2%, to about 7.94 g per day. The current system of voluntary reformulation would cut intakes by about 15%, to 6.89 g per day, while mandatory reformulation would lead to a 20% reduction, to an estimated 6.48 g per day.
The UK’s Department of Health recommends that people should consume no more than 6 g of salt each day, while the World Health Organisation has set a lower limit, of 5 g a day.
About 35% of deaths in the UK are caused by cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke, at an estimated cost of about £30bn (€37.7bn) a year to the UK economy.
“Implementing legislation to reduce dietary salt in processed foods offers a valid way to substantially decrease spending on health care for CHD [coronary heart disease],” the researchers wrote. “Furthermore, the continuing work in progress between the FSA and the food industry could also result in further savings on health care expenditure in the future.”
They noted that programmes like Change4Life and labelling were still cost-saving compared to doing nothing, even though they were likely to result in smaller reductions in salt consumption.
Source: Value in Health
Vol. 17(2014), pp. 517-524 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jval.2014.03.1722
“An Economic Evaluation of Salt Reduction Policies to Reduce Coronary Heart Disease in England: A Policy Modeling Study”
Authors: Marissa Collins, Helen Mason, Martin O’Flaherty, Maria Guzman-Castillo, Julia Critchley, and Simon Capewell.