Public Health England 2016 - 2020
In 2016, responsibility for salt reduction was transferred from the Department of Health to Public Health England (PHE) and now sits within their ‘sugar reduction and wider reformulation programme’, one of the main commitments in Childhood obesity: a plan for action.
The salt reduction targets set under the Public Health Responsibility Deal in March 2014 were due to be met by the end of 2017 and in December 2018, PHE released an analysis of industry progress towards meeting the targets. The report highlighted that UK retailers have made more progress with salt reduction compared to manufacturers - while 73% of retailer products meet their average targets, just 37% of manufacturers meet theirs. Half of the top 15 contributors to salt intake have not met their average salt targets, including the top three contributors - bread and rolls, bacon and ready meals/meal centres. However, if the target has not been 100% met within a category, then it weakens the work done by more responsible companies and salt must be reduced across the board to achieve the much-needed level-playing field for this voluntary programme to have any success.
In 2019 new salt reduction plans were announced in the Prevention Green Paper - Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s.
In 2020, as part of the Government's new Obesity Strategy (launched in response to growing evidence linking obesity to worse outcomes of COVID-19), PHE announced new targets for salt and calorie reduction, in a bid to encourage the food industry to play their part in tackling the country's health crisis. To coincide with these new guidelines, a second progress report of the 2017 salt targets were also published. This looked at data from 2017-2018, and found very little change since the first progress report; retailers progressed slightly better than manufacturers, with the out of home sector continuing to lag behind.
National Institute for Health Protection
The Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock MP announced in August 2020 that PHE will be replaced by the National Institute for Health Protection. It is not yet clear what will happen to Public Health, but a consultation later this year has been promised. Until then, PHE remain responsible for the reformulation programmes.