Response to Imperial College London and University of London analysis of the Responsibility Deal
19 July 2019
New research published today by two of our members Christopher Millett and Simon Capewell, and others have highlighted substantial failings made by Government under the Public Health Responsibility Deal.
The UK were once seen as world leaders in salt reduction, noted to be one of the most cost effective measures in tackling public health. However, with control of the salt programme moving to the Responsibility Deal in 2011, this gave the food industry greater freedom in salt reduction. The Responsibility Deal lacked external target setting, monitoring and enforcement, giving the food industry responsibility for improving nutrition.
Salt reduction has been found to have stalled since the relaxation of the salt reduction targets in 2011 according to this new research. It is estimated that this stalled salt reduction could be associated with an extra 9,900 cases of cardiovascular disease and 1,500 cases of stomach cancer between 2011 and 2017. It is also estimated that between 2011 and 2017, the relaxation of the salt reduction targets cost the economy around £160 million.
Without any further change or urgent action on salt reduction, they estimated a further 26,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, and 3,800 cases of stomach cancer between 2019 and 2025, costing the economy an estimated additional £960 million.
Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman for Action on Salt, said:
“This paper confirms once more that the Responsibility Deal was a disaster for public health in that it slowed down salt reduction in the UK, resulting in thousands of strokes, heart failure and heart attacks every year, particularly in the more socially deprived, many of which could have been prevented. This reinforces the urgent need for a robust system where we generate worthwhile reductions in salt intake which make a positive and lasting impact. It is now up to the Health Minister, Public Health England and the Government to set up a coherent strategy where the food industry is instructed what to do, rather than the food industry telling the Government what to do, which currently seems to be the case. The UK currently has no active salt reduction strategy which is appalling. In fact, the last set of salt reduction targets expired at the end of 2017. It goes without saying, we now need to get our salt reduction strategy back on track for the benefit of public health, our overburdened NHS and the economy."
Professor Simon Capewell and Professor Christopher Millet, two of the authors of the new research paper 'Quantifying the impact of the Public Health Responsibility Deal on salt intake, cardiovascular disease and gastric cancer burdens: interrupted time series and microsimulation study' are also expert scientific members of Action on Salt.
You can view this paper here.
To see Action on Salt's previous paper evaluating The Responsibility Deal click here.
Our bodies need a little bit of salt to survive, but the amount we eat is far more than we require. Evidence has shown that regularly eating too much salt puts us at increased risk of developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the main cause of strokes and a major cause of heart attacks and heart failures, the most common causes of death and illness in the world. See here for more information on salt and our health.