Another important step forward for salt reduction in England

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Susan Jebb

Food Network Chair Professor Susan Jebb blogs about the latest pledges on salt:

Following publication of the two new salt reduction pledges in March (F9. Salt Reduction 2017 and F10. Out of Home maximum per serving salt targets) , I am delighted that all the major retailers and some significant manufacturing and out of home brands have committed to the new targets. Their commitment is vital if we are to secure the further reductions necessary to continue progress towards our 6g per day goal and to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease.

The salt reduction programme in England has been running since 2004. We have already seen intakes decrease by 15%, saving an estimated 6000 lives each year and for that we must thank the many companies who have contributed to this, often investing considerable time and money in overcoming the technical barriers to be able to reduce salt safely and to maintain the taste of the products we enjoy.

But we still consume far too much salt. Making further progress is increasingly challenging. So it is especially encouraging to see that some brands that have already reduced salt content by 30 or even 50% are now stepping up their efforts to remove even more salt.

These commitments are not just more of the same. There is a really critical extra component this year. We know that, on average, foods consumed outside the home have a higher salt content than those similar products routinely eaten at home. Accordingly we introduced a new pledge that called on out of home food providers to meet limits on the maximum salt content per serving across ten of the most popular dishes and children’s meals. It is particularly pleasing that familiar high-street chains – including Café Rouge, Jamie’s Italian and Pret a Manger – and major contract caterers like Sodexo and Dine Contract Catering are spearheading this change by signing up to one of the new salt pledges.

Enjoying healthier meals when we eat out will help us all to adjust our palates and appreciate lower salt flavours.

So, there are several steps we all need to take to enhance progress:
1. Support those businesses who have signed up to the new targets
2. Continue to question those who have not – the new targets should be the norm for every company not just the few most responsible and committed businesses
3. Advocate for stronger action beyond our borders – England is a relatively small market for many businesses. We need much stronger initiatives to drive change in other countries to stimulate truly global change.

So today, let’s take a moment to celebrate another important step forward in the salt reduction programme in England. But let it also be a reminder that we need to redouble our efforts and urge others to step to their responsibilities to protect public health.

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