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National Salt Awareness Day 2001 - Press Release

Aims

To highlight the very high levels of hidden salt in processed and ready-prepared meals. The public whilst aware of the salt added at the table and in cooking is ignorant of the amount of salt hidden in manufactured foods (75-80% of intake!).

To encourage everyone to 'be more salt aware'.

To alert the public to the long term dangers of a high salt diet and the benefits of reducing salt intake. Bread and cereals make up approximately one third of our salt intake. Salt is also hidden in other foods, surprisingly in many biscuits and even some chocolate cakes and puddings.

Problems With a High Salt Intake

Our current high salt intake is linked to an increase in blood pressure that occurs in everyone as we get older, and to the development of high blood pressure. This rise in blood pressure with increasing age is a major cause of strokes and heart attacks.

Our high salt intake has also been linked to stomach cancer the second commonest form of cancer in the world, and osteoporosis (bone demineralisation) as well as asthma, kidney disease and fluid retention particularly in women.

Policy

As most of the salt we consume is in processed foods the only way forward, apart from reducing salt added at the table and in cooking, is to reduce the salt concentration of processed foods.

A strategy of a gradual, sustained reduction in the salt content of all processed foods is the only solution. This strategy is now backed by the Department of Health and is being acted on by some of the leading retailers.

There is considerable opposition to this strategy from the salt and soft drinks industry, as well as some of the major food processors. These industries have major vested interests in keeping salt intake high in the UK. A report from the Food and Drink Federation asked for by the Government is still awaited despite being promised before Christmas.

Action

Encourage more retailers and food manufacturers to carry out salt reduction programs. This is simple to do as evidenced by Asda, M&S and the Co-op.

Ensure clear labelling of all products with amount of salt in grams per serving alongside recommended salt intake for day (6 grams). This allows the consumers to easily calculate their own salt intake.

Endorsements

National Salt Awareness Day has the endorsement of the Government and The Department of Health. Yvette Cooper Minister of State for Public Health issued this statement:

"CASH's initiative is important in raising consumer awareness of the salt content of their diet and its relationship to health. I welcome CASH's Salt Awareness Day, which should help consumers make informed choices"

Other organisations who support National Salt Awareness Day are: The National Heart Forum, The World Cancer Research Trust, National Osteoporosis Society, British Dietetic Association and The Stroke Association

Enclosed are calculated amounts of salt in the diet from processed foods with no added salt in someone pursuing a health conscious diet or a non health conscious diet. You will see that someone who thinks they are eating healthily is consuming around 12.5 grams of salt a day, and someone less health conscious consumes an average of 18.5 grams of salt in a day. The recommended intake in the UK is 6 grams a day.

Also enclosed is a range of illustrative case histories where individuals with high blood pressure who believed that they were following a healthy diet found much to their surprise to be on a high salt intake. In many of these individuals when salt was reduced blood pressure was also reduced, either on its own or in conjunction with blood pressure lowering tablets.

Reference: G.A. MacGregor (1999) Nutrition and blood pressure. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 9: Suppl to No. 4, 6-15

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