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House of Commons Reception Wednesday 14th March 2018

As part of National Salt Awareness Week 2018, Action on Salt held an afternoon reception at the House of Commons on Wednesday 14th March, hosted by Luciana Berger. Around 100 guests attended the event, including NGOs, members of the food industry and healthcare professionals.

House of Commons Reception1House of Commons2

 

 

 

 

Presentations were made by:

  • Nathalie Pomroy, Chief Marketing Officer, Whitbread Restaurants
  • Caroline Klinge, LoSalt
  • Vicki Coulton, Public Health England
  • Graham MacGregor, Chairman for Action on Salt
  • Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree

You can read what they had to say below.

Nathalie Pomroy, Chief Marketing Officer, Whitbread Restaurants

Good afternoon everyone. So I’m Chief Marketing Office of Whitbread Restaurants, I joined the business 2 years ago, and prior to that I was Marketing Director for McDonalds UK so I’ve been involved in the nutritional agenda for quite some time. Whitbread, as Graham acknowledged, Whitbread is well known for two drive brands: Premier Inn and Costa. The restaurant division is perhaps less well known but still drives half a billion pounds of annual revenue.

We have what I would call heritage brands, such as Beefeater and Brewers Fayre, and fledging more modern concepts such as Bar and Block that we’ve developed in the past couple of years and we are challenging ourselves and being progressive with our nutrition agenda across all our brands.

Whitbread’s sustainability programme is called Force for Good, and holds the ambitious vision of supporting our suppliers, team members, and of course our customers to live and work well. It firmly places people at its heart which is not surprising given that we are a hospitality company and with 50,000 employees serving some 28 million customers per month, Whitbread has always been about people.

We therefore see the nutrition agenda as a key component of our sustainability programme, as we want to act responsibly and importantly, reflect changing customer expectations in our food and drink offer. It’s fair to say that we do not want to compromise on the safety, the quality and the value that our customers have come to expect from us. That said, we are committed and genuinely committed to reducing salt, sugar, saturated fat and calories across all our menus through appropriate reformulation, portion size reduction, and providing credible, meaningful healthier choices. It’s not a tick the box exercise with salad on the menu.

Striking that balance and moving quickly enough to make a difference, challenging suppliers to get on board, managing the commercials especially in light of the inflationary context inflationary market, the implication from a food safety perspective and taking customers with us on the journey given today’s eating habits have been shaped over decades, all this makes this multi fasted and a challenging environment but I’m pleased to say we have made some good progress.

And we do take this challenge seriously, specifically on salt. We’ve been a long standing supporter of the former Department of Health Responsibility Deal and we were signatory to the original salt reduction pledge back in 2012. Although as many of you know the latest salt pledge with 2017 targets was closed for further company sign ups by the Department of Health, we have worked actively with our suppliers to continue with our salt reduction programme.

As an example, last year we launched 112 new products and all were launched with and complying with the 2017 salt targets. Currently we’re up to 76% of premier inn and restaurant branded products that do achieve the average target for their category, and that equates to 217 products. Of the remaining non complying products, 45 are in the process of being reviewed by our buyers, working with our suppliers and in development chefs, and 37 of these are being redeveloped as we speak or in the process of being replaced, removed from the menu and replaced by a compliant product.

 In addition to reformulation and recipe changes, we only add salt to dishes during cooking and preparation for grilled items only such as steaks and burgers. The biggest challenge lies in reducing salt in products where salt is required during the manufacturing process for food safety and quality challenges. For example, cured meats as you would expect, such as bacon, gammon, cheese and bread. That said we have made good progress against all of this and if I speak to my exec chef, he worked across 9 months, a solid 9 to 10 months to get our gammon to meet the thresholds, and that’s just one line. Important, but one line. So you can imagine the amount of effort that requires across many menus across different brands.

Another challenge is in branded lines where we have no control over ingredient composition and recipes such as sauces, however we see that there are great examples of progress in that field as well, McCain being a good example over there. We do work closely with our suppliers to encourage them to reduce salt content as well.

Reformulation is only one pillar of our nutrition strategy, along with choice, focussing on providing the right offer for the more indulgent, yes they do exist those occasions and the healthier occasions. Transparency of information, so helping our guests make informed choices what they eat and drink with accessible nutritional information, and finally responsible advertising to ensure we don’t promote over consumption in our marketing activity.

And we do recognise that we cannot deliver this strategy alone, that we need the support of other industry experts to ensure that any decision we make across those four pillars are informed ones and reflect the latest thinking. This enables us to balance the needs of our guests with our corporate responsibilities and the expectations of public policy makers to address an important societal need.

We’ll continue to engage with Department of Health, Public Health England and other external stakeholders including CASH, Action on Salt, Action on Sugar and very much thank them for their support and guidance. So all in all we’re really pleased with the progress that we’ve made so far, but we still have quite a bit to do and we are very focussed on progressing our menus generally, and therefore our future commitments focussed on continuing the great work that we’ve done and challenge ourselves and our suppliers to improve the nutritional value of our offer further and actively engage with key external stakeholders to identify further opportunities through innovation.

So that gives you a bit of a roundup of what we’ve been focussed on and thank-you for listening.

Graham MacGregor, Chairman for Action on Salt

Thank-you will we have some time at the end for a few questions. It’s very good, some of you may not realise that trying to get the eat out of home section to join the salt reduction was very much more difficult than retail, and I think you’re a good example of out of home that’s doing, or has done, a good job. We need more of you to join you. But thank-you very much.

We’ve now got Caroline Klinge from LoSalt. We’ve been working with LoSalt for years, I think since the 1980s when we first did studies with potassium showing how beneficial it was, and it’s a pleasure to welcome her. For those of you who don’t know, LoSalt is a salt replacement, 70% potassium chloride, 30% sodium chloride. Thank-you.

Caroline Klinge, LoSalt

I’m delighted to be invited to speak at CASH’s 19th Salt Awareness reception here at the House of Commons. Having worked in the food industry for almost two decades now, I intend to share my observations over the years in relation to the very important matter of salt reduction in foods.

As a food science undergraduate studying in Leeds back in 1997, lectures didn’t cover reformulation or salt health. Why would they? Back then it was about making food safe, economically, perhaps with some added benefits engineered in. Now, 20 years later I’m sure that the syllabus has been updated to focus on ways of engineering outcome components for better nutrition.

The problem is, within those 20 years, the retail business has become so competitive, that manufacturers really do struggle to invest in reformulation. Commercial pressures put on manufacturers by the retailers, instead looking for innovative products and marketing activities to benefit themselves.

My first commercial role was in the technical department of a soup manufacturer. This role was at the same time as when the government had a salt campaign running which sid the slug told us the danger of salts and Jenny Eclair told us to always read the labels on food. Wasn’t that a fantastic campaign? Personally I haven’t remembered seeing before, or since, a national multimedia campaign educating the public to make better food choices.

From my offices I was able to see the direct impact of this campaign. Even though, as a working member of project Neptune that manufacture had already began reformulation work removing salt by stealth, consumers had salt content in their minds. The amount of complaints we received for salty flavours at that time skyrocketed. I think that this is a very interesting point. A well run public awareness campaign does drive people to ask for change. This can only be beneficial if the change being asked for leads to better public health.

Side by side, this public awareness campaign ran a well organised, strategic push on manufacturers by the Food Standards Agency to reduce salt levels in foods. These compulsory targets had a huge impact both here and abroad. Salt levels in food quickly came down, and this programme became a benchmark internationally for countries looking to instigate their own salt reduction programmes.

Unfortunately the pace of salt reduction was to stall somewhat when the responsibility for nutritional guidelines moved from the Food Standards Agency to the Department of Health. Compulsory targets migrated to the responsibility deal, a voluntary ‘pact’ to show peoples commitment to salt reduction. Well, there’s a whole lot of difference from saying you’re committed to salt reduction than actually taking action.

That said, from severe commercial pressures from retailers, food companies were really caught between a rock and a hard place. Where is the money to reformulate if margins are being squeezed so tightly by retailers? But why is it so expensive to engineer salt out. Well salt is literally is white gold. Not only does it impart functionality and extend the shelf life of a product. It is also a very cheap way of lifting the flavour of food. If, to save money, the quality of ingredients is reduced, throw in some salt and the overall flavour is heightened. So why bother to engineer it out if you don’t need to? Due to this attitude the consuming public palate has become a little salt accustomed.

The benefit of having compulsory targets was that manufacturers had to actually do something. The vast majority of food companies started removing free salt by stealth. A tactic that’s changed the nation’s palate and reduced daily consumption levels from 9g of salt a day to 8g of salt a day. But unfortunately this is a long way off from the recommended intake of 6g of salt a day.

Not only has salt targeting become voluntary, manufacturers that feel that all the free salts that can be removed have been removed. The next step would be to look at salt replacers. Something to be used instead of salt that would maintain functionality and preservation. The problem has been to date that the most obvious and economical solution, that is potassium based salt replacers, have not been advocated by the Department of Health for the following reasons:
1) the possibly adverse effects of increased potassium intakes on certain vulnerable groups, and
2) the fact that it would not habituate the population to lower salt intake i.e it will keep people used to the flavour of salt.

How bizarre, removing an easily modifiable risk to the largest national health problem just to err on the side of caution. Thankfully, seeing salt reduction stall, the Department of Health did eventually choose to investigate further, and in 2013, commissioned the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to investigate the use of potassium based salt replacers. Well, we’ve been waiting a long time for the outcome of this independent study and finally in November of last year the following conclusions were drawn from both SACN and COT the Committee of Toxicology: the first conclusion was that overall at population level the potential benefits of using potassium based salt replacers to help reduce sodium in foods far outweigh the potential risks. Number 2, the beneficial affects at an individual level are likely to be small in size but will impact a large proportion of the population. Their closing recommendation is: ‘the government should consider encouraging food companies to explore the use of potassium based salt replacers to help reduce sodium levels in food’.

So let’s watch this space. In my personal opinion, we should see first of all see government reinstate compulsory targets now that a relatively inexpensive tool has officially been sanctioned, and at the same time see retailers ease commercial pressures allowing manufacturers to perform this vital work for better health. Thank-you for your time.

Graham MacGregor, Chairman for Action on Salt

Thanks very much, you’re very clear and very to the point talk. Thank-you. The next speaker is Vicki Coulton from Public Health England. She’s in charge of Public Health England’s salt reduction programme.

Vicki Coulton, Public Health England

Hi I’m Vicki I’m part of the reduction and reformulation team at Public Health England, and as you will all know the reduction required reformulation programme was a key commitment in the government’s child obesity plan and that includes responsibility for salt reduction. And as you will also know, the focus on salt stems from the SACN 2003 report on ‘Salt on Health’ which showed that a reduction in average adult salt intake to 6 grams would lower population blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

As a result the FSA and Department of Health committed at that time to a wide ranging programme encouraging the reformulation of foods to reduce salt content. And working with industry and key partners such as Action on Salt, great strides have been achieved in salt reduction and there’s been about 11% reduction in population intakes since that point.

PHEs work on sugar reduction and the recently kicked off a new calorie reduction programme has taken in a lot of those learnings that we got from the salt reduction programme. And we then formally took responsibility for salt as well as I’ve just said. So in March 2017 PHE published the, we republished the, 2017 salt targets that were developed originally under the Public Health Responsibility Deal and included targets set for the out of home Sector.

The targets cover around 76 food groups and for the Out of Home sector an additional 11 food categories, and those targets were due to be met in December 2017, so at the end of last year. What we’re trying to do and what we’re striving to do at the moment is present the food and drinks industry with a joined up ask across the whole reformulation programme. And we feel that is really critical to do rather than pursue many separate ones in isolation so that we can generate the most effective reach and influence across the programme.

And as part of all then engagement that we’ve done with industry and NGOs since that point and there’s been a really big programme of engagement with industry, we have been restating government’s expectation that industry will continue to work to and meet those salt reduction targets in 2017. So we have now purchased commercial data that covers all food and drink consumed in the home through CANTAR and that includes all of the foods in the salt reduction programme.

So we’ve been clear that as with sugar reduction and calorie reduction we will not be relying on industry to self-report how they are doing against the targets, but we will use that data to transparently monitor the success of the programme. So what we are trying to do at the moment is to bring salt reduction into PHEs wider reformulation programme so that we’ve got a consistent approach. But in order to do that, what we first need to do is make an assessment of industry’s progress towards those salt targets and we want to do a stock take to see where manufacturers, retailers, and the Out of Home sector lie within those salt targets. And what we will do is we will publish that assessment this year and we will then use that to drive forward the agenda on salt reduction, and to see what our recommendations to government will be on the next steps for salt reduction.

As part of those next steps we’re going to consider the findings of the SACN-COT statement of potassium sodium replacements and we remain absolutely committed to ensuring industries held to account to deliver those salt reduction targets. What we will also take into account is the Department for Health and Social Care, who are currently considering commissioning a urinary sodium survey which will give us the first data on population intake since 2014. So that will form another essential element to what we will consider when we are advising government on salt reduction.

So to conclude, salt reduction remains an important priority within our reduction and reformulation programme and we intend to bring a greater transparent monitoring rigor to that work which will demonstrate to industry just how seriously this issue remains to us. And we greatly value and will continue to work with both Action on Salt to keep the momentum up on this critical agenda. Thank-you.

Graham MacGregor, Chairman for Action on Salt

Thanks Vicki that was great, thank-you very much. I should indicate that it has been very frustrating for us because from 2010 we had the Food Standards Agency, then we had the Responsibility Deal which failed and we’ve been trying to get Public Health England, who were made responsible for salt in 2016, as you can see not an awful lot has happened since then and the worry is, is that we showed them, the Department of Health showed them, that for each 1 g reduction in salt intake in the public in adults, you save around 14,000 stroke and heart attack events and 7,000 of them which are fatal per year and the Department of Health has calculated the premature deaths which are 4000, that’s before the age of 70 so you can see the need for speed. We’ve lost many years and therefore thousands of people have died unnecessary or suffered a stroke or heart attack unnecessary because of delay within the Department of Health. So we really want to see now collaborating with Public Health England, really getting a move on and showing they really can be up to the same standard as the Food Standards Agency or other countries like Chile which is way ahead of us, South Africa, way ahead of us, and yet we were the first in the world and we were the, everyone copied us, they’re now overtaking us which is quite frustrating.

Anyway, from the point of view from what we’ve done, there’s a lot we’ve done, I’m going to go over it very briefly. Some of you may have seen in the press media, online or on twitter, the Chinese takeaway survey we did in restaurants and also ready meals in supermarkets, and what it showed was that Chinese takeaways were incredibly salty and were nowhere near their targets from restaurants. Supermarkets were also very salty, and when you add it up, obviously when you have a Chinese meal, you don’t have one portion, when you add everything up you get to an intake of 15g of salt in one meal, and that’s getting near toxic levels where your salt level in your blood goes up, you get incredibly thirsty, you get headaches, and feel very unwell, and the ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ which was thought to be due to glutamate is actually due to the very high salt intake. So it’s an illustration, particularly of the out of home, and particularly ethnic foods on how salty they can be.

We also have our Food Switch, and I’m sure you’ve got examples here. You can read the barcode on any foods that have a barcode on it and it will automatically change it to a signpost labelling even if it’s not on the food, and you can then select out products with less salt or less sugar or less calories in them, and that’s an important way in getting the public informed.

As you heard from Vicki, they are intending, we are hoping they will reset the salt targets. They should have been set in 2015 but they weren’t because of the chaos in the Department of Health. They should have been set in 2016 immediately when Public Health took over responsibility of salt but they haven’t and we’re still waiting and it’s already some time past 2017. So we are very frustrated about that.

In terms of national events, we’ve got a huge number of 350 events, covering all over the country, and we have a very a very large number of things happening abroad as well from our WASH members and we have, in conjunction with them, done a really big survey of breads across the world which shows some interesting results that certainly in the UK the bread on the whole apart from 1 or 2, this is the packaged bread is hitting the 2017 targets on the whole. But when you look at breads internationally, there are some very salty breads that you’d expect but places like Qatar, Arabic bread is much lower than our bread which shows it can be quite easily reduced much further and some of those are the same sliced loaves as we have, so there’s no reason why we couldn’t make big reductions in the salt content of bread to a further amount.

Anyway, I would like to thank everyone for coming and anything you can do to push Public Health England into dramatic action in the next year would be great. I’d like to thank speakers, particularly Nathalie, Caroline and Vicki for brief but very to the point presentations. We’d also like to thank the food companies who have supported us, Kudos Blends, LoSalt, McCain Foods, Newtech, Waitrose, and CH&CO Catering, and then we’ve had a lot of support from various charities, there’s a list here but particularly Blood Pressure UK, Heart UK, Heart Research UK, Stroke Association, UK Health Forum, Kidney Research UK and World Cancer Research Fund.

Lastly but not least I’d like to thank the organisers, particularly Sonia who’s done a great job. Thanks to Sarah, Mhairi, Kawther and all the others who have done a great job, and particularly to David for such a huge amount of publicity about Chinese foods, thank-you very much.

So thank-you all for coming, we are going to have a brief session now of questions, and any questions you’d like to ask.

This is Dr Wayne Sunman who’s a member of our action group, expert member.

 

Question from Dr Wayne Sunman:

Thank-you, you are too kind. So I would just like to ask Nathalie really have you any plans for bringing in some sort of labelling in your restaurants, so you get, if you take a curry sometimes, you get 3 chillies, 2 chillies, and you can get a vague idea of how it’s going to be, but it would be really wonderful as a person with borderline hypertension who’s watching his salt really carefully, it would be really wonderful if I go to a restaurant and see there’s a no salt or really low salt option with a salt with a cross on it.

Answer from Nathalie Pomroy, Chief Marketing Officer, Whitbread Restaurants

We don’t currently label our low salt dishes, we do with calories, we have a little watch out for under 600 calories, goes back to the campaign that’s just been launched which is a good move in the right direction. We will have to consider that I think in the context of how much we label, so we label vegetarian dishes, we label vegan dishes, we label…

Dr Wayne Sunman:

This is 25% of the adult population that should be getting this advice, avoid it, I certainly avoid it like the plague so their taking on advice they can’t choose it …

Nathalie Pomroy, Chief Marketing Officer, Whitbread Restaurants

It’s a good consideration for us to work through, certainly from a nutritional information we can get that on the website but that’s very different from a website to a menu so I completely appreciate that so I think we will have to understand how that, based on all the priorities of what we need to signal on our menus which one we put forward but I’m happy to consider that as part of our next review.

Graham MacGregor, Chairman for Action on Salt

Could I just point out two things, as you know, New York now has on all out of home food in New York if it’s high in salt it has a warning label on it and we want to see that and also I think is it Chile, has the same thing, they have a warning label on all their high salt foods don’t they. So we’d like to see all restaurants doing the same, maybe Whitbread could be the first restaurant to do that.

Nathalie Pomroy, Chief Marketing Officer, Whitbread Restaurants

Well we’re certainly looking to put calories on the kids menu that’s our next step

Graham MacGregor, Chairman for Action on Salt

Well calories is one thing that is important but salt is the forgotten killer, salt kills more people now than obesity. That’s not to say in 10years time obesity won’t be causing more deaths than salt but they’re both up there. It’s not one or the other, it’s both.

Nathalie Pomroy, Chief Marketing Officer, Whitbread Restaurants

I think we’re all so very focussed on just reducing the level of salt across all our dishes and getting all our dishes to be complying with the 2017 targets, and we’ll see what the 2018 targets are released or 2019 when they’re released we’ll be looking to carry on with that journey so there isn’t necessary scrutiny on low salt per say, we just want to take the level of salt across our dishes down.

Graham MacGregor, Chairman for Action on Salt

It is frustrating you see other countries overtaking over us, we led this programme, led the world who are now overtaking us. Anyway I’m very pleased to say Luciana has managed to make it, I’m sorry you had all these difficulties but we welcome you, and please say a few words.

 

Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree

Thank-you very much. Thank-you very much everyone for being here and for inviting me.

I’m Labour and co-operative member of parliament, I’m also a member of the Health Select Committee and I chair Labours back bench Health Committee and it was in my previous capacity former as a Shadow Public Health Minister that I was involved, first and foremost in the activities that bring us altogether here today.

I’m really delighted to support Action on Salts 19th National Salt Awareness Week. I was called to address in the event a couple years ago and I’m really pleased to have seen the campaign to continue to grow and to see so many people come here today. Of course the week was then hosted by what was then called CASH – Consensus Action on Salt and Health, and now the fact the campaign is known as Action on Salt, I think it’s, while it’s a change of name, I think it perfectly represents the approach it needs to be taken and the example the government should follow by putting action first in our work to reduce salt intake and so improve public health, and I know that’s an endeavour and a goal that’s shared by many in this house, I particularly know that the majority of the work the NHS is increasingly contending with is lifestyle related disease, and obviously our diet is a key element of that.

But I know you will have heard from Professor McGregor on the vital importance of lowering salt intake in the UK. I use the word vital because I think that word it absolutely key. The government recommends an adults daily salt intake to be a maximum of 6g per day and yet we know the average adult intake in the UK is currently 8g per day. Now each day the average UK adult is consuming 133% of their recommended daily salt intake.

We know this level of consumption over time can raise our blood pressure, we know that around 1/3 of adults in the UK currently have raised blood pressure, we know this puts us at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, increases our chances of having a stroke.

We know that for every 1 gram reduction in salt intake, can prevent 7,000 deaths in our country, 4,000 of which are premature and from strokes and heart disease. That’s a particularly salient point when you will have seen the news just last week about our life expectancy in this country and healthy life expectancy in this country. More people are contending with long term conditions and more years at the end of their life and that really should be a concern for us all.

What I find particularly concerning is that most people, many of my constituents, sometimes myself included, will have no idea that their salt intake is that high. We know so many foods contain added salt, even foods that don’t necessarily taste salty, and I was looking at the ingredients of a cake the other day to see salt so high up on the ingredients list, again a concern for us all.

As shown by Action on Salts report that was released yesterday, we unknowingly consume hugely excessive levels of salt when we eat the UKs favourite takeaway food – Chinese food. I love Chinese food, I have my favourite Chinese takeaway just down by street. I know it will come as no surprise, and I anticipate you will have already have discussed this in the remarks already been raised about the concerns about Chinese takeaway food containing those higher than average levels of salt.

We’ve had many discussions in this place about reformulation, and it was work I previously did as Shadow Minister for Public Health where I was a massive advocate of reformulation and the active work I believe the government should be taking to make an impact on our nation’s diet.

Chinese meals, like many other meals could easily be reformulated with lower levels of salt, and I think it’s about time more food providers, and it’s not all, but more food providers did this so responsibly. I can point out to some food providers that do so already but it’s not all of them and that’s something we should aspire to.

The lack of food labelling and branding on particularly take out and restaurant products makes it much harder I think to help consumers make those healthier choices. The UK used to be world leading on our salt reduction efforts and had what was shown to be the most effective, most cost effective, public health programme in the world, indeed up till 2011 the UK salt reduction programme had already saved 18,000 strokes and heart attacks per year, 9,000 of which were fatal. £1.5 billion a year in NHS health care saving costs, and that was according to NICE itself.

We know that in 2016 Public Health England assumed responsibility for UK salt reduction, but I have to say this as an MP and a politician stood before you we know that there has been no progress report on whether the latest 2017 salt targets have been reached, nor any information on plans to set further new and more ambitious targets. Now that’s a concern for me and I know that’s a concern for MPs on both sides of the house and I believe we need those, need to continue on that journey to have those more ambitious targets.

We have a long way to go until all adults across the UK reach that 6g a day recommendation and I think now is the time for bold and responsible action from the government, so we reduce the huge strain on our nation’s health and NHS, and properly safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public in coming years.

I certainly will do everything I can in that regard, in my work I do on the Health Select Committee, we’ve got a lot of enquiries set over the course of the coming year we will be looking at public health and this is a really important element of that. Again, and from the opposition looking at our own policy and development. Sharon Hodgson who is our Shadow Minister for Public Health is really focussed on this issue as well and I look forward to working with her to ensure that our party has some really positive proposals in this issue and I look forward to working with anyone in this room that might like to achieve that and thank-you for inviting me and thank-you to all the campaign for the work that you do and I look forward to achieving success with you into the future. Thank-you.

Graham MacGregor, Chairman for Action on Salt

That was great, I couldn’t have asked for better could we, I mean just what we wanted. Thank-you very much.

We’re just having a few questions, I don’t know if anyone’s got any. Any questions, perhaps to Luciana about what we can get the opposition to do to hasten things up, get Jeremy Corbyn involved, any questions anywhere.

 

Question from Michelle Briggs, Kudos Blends

It was just for Vicki from Public Health England, for so long Public Health England and Department of Health said that people couldn’t use potassium - now that the SACN has come out saying people can how are they going to promote to manufacturers that they could now be using potassium, because for so long they’ve been told they can’t. How are you going to reverse that?

Vicki Coulton, Public Health England

So like I just said, we will be considering the SACN-COT statement when we make our recommendations to government about the next steps for salt so that’s going to form part of our programme about how we consider the next steps for salt reduction. So we haven’t made an assessment yet, we’re in the process of doing that at the moment.

 

Graham MacGregor, Chairman for Action on Salt

I mean the point is, in other countries they’ve been using potassium as a salt replacer in food technology for many years, in Europe and other countries as well, so we’re way behind. It was partly because the Food Standards Agency had this mantra from one particular individual, I won’t go into that, that potassium was dangerous and blocked it. It was quite clear even in the 19080s that giving potassium.. I’m trained as a kidney specialist and I’m well aware of the dangers of potassium but it is extremely rare whereas the public health benefits of potassium in lowering blood pressure, preventing strokes, heart disease are huge. So it was quite clear even then, it’s taken years to get this SACN report which has been very frustrating for the industry but nevertheless they’ve come out and quite unequivocally said that as you heard that from Caroline, that the public health benefits of potassium far outweigh any risks so we now have a clear go ahead, obviously Public Health England need to pontificate but hopefully they’ll come out with the right message but I think there’s a message out there in the industry you can now reformulate in products where it’s difficult, particularly meat products where you’re getting to the limit of microbiological safety when you take salt out, although the actual science behind all the inhibition of micro bacteria, bacteria sorry, in meat products is incredibly, appallingly bad. We went to Norwich to discuss it a few years ago and they really don’t know what inhibits Clostridium Boutlinum in meat products which is a pretty serious indictment to the food industry but anyway it can be used in that situation where there really is probably a fairy urgent need to get meat products down cause their very high in salt, a big contributor to salt intake, and by using potassium you can do that. So my view is that you can go ahead and do it, whatever Public Health England pontificates because the scientific community says it’s better to do that than to go on with high salt level.

Ok well look thank-you very much, firstly to Luciana for coming under rather breathless circumstances and all the speakers and thanks all of you who attended and thanks I’ve already said to all the organisers for doing it brilliantly. Thank-you very much.

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