The UK’s work on salt reduction is world leading. The report on Salt and Health by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition set the scene and we have reduced average daily salt intakes by 15% since 2001. This is primarily due to the efforts by industry to reformulate a wide range of products to lower the salt content. We estimate that this has saved around 6000 lives each year, and UK businesses have every reason to be proud of this ground breaking work. But we must also recognise that we all have a lot further to go if we are to do the very best we can to reduce the burden of diet-related ill-health.
It has been almost a year since we issued the new 2017 salt targets and, for the first time, set targets for the most popular dishes consumed outside the home. We now have commitments from around 60% of the retail and manufacturing market.
Signatories include all the major retailers, many big name manufacturers, such as Heinz and Premier Foods, and some high street businesses such as Subway. These businesses have already achieved significant salt reductions and are continuing to push the boundaries by committing to these stretching new targets. I want to thank all these companies for their commitment, which will allow us to continue to make progress towards our 6g/d goal for adults and less for children.
But we need all businesses to follow suit. This is not a task that can be left just to the most willing and progressive companies – we need everyone to play their part if we are to make further cuts in the number of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke.
We know that food served in restaurants and takeaways tends to be saltier than similar foods eaten at home. That is why we introduced specific maximum targets for the out of home sector covering the most popular items on menus and children’s meals. The survey by CASH at the start of Salt Awareness Week highlights that too many of the meals specifically targeted at children contain excessive amounts of salt. It is high time that these businesses, many of which profess to be family friendly chains, commit to meet the salt targets and to help ensure children’s palates do not become accustomed to high salt flavours.
The manufacturing and in home retail sector have shown what can be achieved – they need to continue to set the pace, maintaining their investment in innovation to meet the technological challenges. The high street must catch up and fast. Eating out is a sociable, pleasurable activity, and it should not undermine our health.