Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) launched its 9th National Salt Awareness Week on Monday 28th January - Sunday 3rd February 2008. The focus for the Week was salt and children, highlighting the huge amount of salt that children are eating, the upper limits that they should be eating, and the long-term health implications of eating a high salt diet in childhood.
Research has shown that reducing our children's salt intake by half leads to immediate falls in their blood pressure, which in turn could have an impact in their later life, leading to major reductions in their risk of developing stroke, heart attacks and heart failure. Furthermore, it is well established by scientists that the higher the blood pressure in childhood, the higher the blood pressure in adulthood. Therefore, any preventative measures that lowers blood pressure in children is likely to reduce the number of adults developing high blood pressure later in life.
Eating a high salt diet has also been linked to other problems with our health such as failure for children to reach peak bone mass predisposing them to osteoporosis in later life, aggravation of asthma, predisposing people to stomach cancer, and it could also influence the development of obesity.
We only need very small amounts of salt (sodium chloride) in our diet for good health. In fact adults only need about 1.4g a day, and children far less, to play an important role in keeping our body fluids balanced, transmitting information in our nerves and muscles and enabling the uptake of nutrients into our cells. Children and adults eat far more salt than we need for our essential wellbeing and therefore we need to reduce the levels of salt that both children and adults eat.
A media release was issued during the Week highlighting that many foods eaten by UK children still contain large amounts of salt, in some cases more than half the daily maximum limit for a 6 year old in a single serving. Our media release also revealed the results of research carried out with Netmums, a leading parenting website, showing that many parents are confused about which foods contain salt.
On the 30th January a lunchtime reception was held at the House of Commons, between 12.15 and 2pm. There were around 100 guests including MPs, Peers and representatives from retailers, food manufacturers, caterers, charities, Department of Health (DH), the Food Standards Agency (FSA), media and other stakeholders. Speakers at the reception included Mrs Dawn Primarolo, Minister of State for Public Health, Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH , Ian Reynolds, Deputy Chair of the Food Standards Agency and Cathy Court , Director of Food and Nutrition, Netmums.
We achieved widespread coverage of our Salt Awareness Week 2008 messages across press, radio, TV and online. In total, we estimate that the media coverage of Salt Awareness Week 2008 achieved in excess of 130 million opportunities to see/hear.
The story was covered in depth by GMTV on the morning of the 28th January and Channel 5 News featured our story in its lunchtime news programme. Additionally, 20 radio interviews and over 50 pieces of further radio editorial were broadcast. We held a live webchat TV programme on 12 websites with a combined audience of 14,069,645 and a video feature explaining where salt can be hidden in children’s foods appeared on a further 4 websites with a combined audience of 282,000.
In the press, the Independent ran a double page spread and The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Express, The Mirror and The Metro also ran news stories on the CASH survey of high salt children’s foods. Coverage in the online versions of these papers added to our audience figures considerably.
In addition to the national press coverage, there was extensive regional press coverage, and many reports in online food industry websites and news services.
Several food companies and health-related bodies marked Salt Awareness Week with their own press releases and news items on their websites. Trading Standards officers also achieved coverage of projects to reduce the amount of salt added to fish and chips, tied in with National Salt Awareness Week.
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