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Action on Salt

Salt in Children

• New study shows salt in children’s diets is from breads and cereal products (36%), meat products (19%) and dairy products (11%)
• Crisps and snacks surprisingly only accounted for 5% of salt intakes
• Boys tended to have higher salt intake than girls, particularly in the older and younger groups – about 1 gram higher per day in 5-6 year olds, and 2 ½ grams per day higher in 13-17 year olds.

This new British Heart Foundation funded study, the first to accurately measure salt intake in children’s diets, found (Ref 1):

“We know that salt starts increasing the risk of high blood pressure in children starting at age one,” said Professor Graham MacGregor, study author and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London. “There needs to be a much greater effort to reduce salt in foods. While salt intake in children wasn’t measured prior to the UK’s salt-reduction campaign, the average salt intake in adults has fallen 15 percent in six years to 8.1g a day.”

“Children, particularly teenagers, are eating a worryingly high amount of salt” says Katharine Jenner, registered nutritionist and Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director of CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health). “What is most surprising about this new study is that this salt is not coming from the salty foods you would expect teenagers to eat, such as crisps and snacks, which account for just 5% of their daily salt intake, but from breads and cereal products, which do not taste salty but account for a third of their daily salt intakes!  Children are not choosing to eat salty foods, the salt is hidden in there by the food industry and they must take it out.”

Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said: “Childhood and adolescence is an important time for the development of our tastes and food habits that can last a lifetime. Salt is a learned taste so it’s worrying that so many of the children and young people in this study were already consuming more than the recommended amounts.

“The majority of salt in these children and young people’s diets came from manufactured foods. This reinforces the need for continued food industry efforts to reduce the salt in their products. However, the adoption of colour coded labels by manufacturers as well as retailers is also important as it will help parents and children make healthier choices.”

It is very difficult for parents to reduce children’s salt intake unless they avoid packaged and restaurant foods and prepare each meal from scratch using fresh, natural ingredients.  It is hard to know how much salt you are feeding your children as identical looking products can contain hugely different amounts of salt – looking at the labels can help you make healthier choices for you and your family.

The new study coincides with the launch of National Salt Awareness Week 2014 (10th – 16th March) is centred around the need for more consistent front of pack nutritional labelling - something that CASH has long been pushing for.  The attention will be focussed on the need for better labelling; congratulating those who have signed up to the Department of Health’s new front of pack labelling scheme, and encouraging others to follow suit (Ref 2).

To see the response from The Real Bread Campaign, click here 

Click here to see the full paper.


Notes to Editor
Go to for more information or contact:
● CASH - Katharine Jenner on: 020 7882 6018 or 07740 553298,
● CASH - Professor Graham MacGregor on: 07946 405617,
● National PR - Jessica Filbey or Kate Licnachan on: 0207 242 2844 / 07967215644  or

Ref 1 – Salt Intake of Children and Adolescents in South London
Naomi M. Marrero, Feng J. He, Peter Whincup, Graham A. MacGregor, Consumption Levels and Dietary Sources. Hypertension. 03/2014 DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.113.02264

Ref 2 – Colour-coded Nutrition Labelling
The ratings for red, amber and green for each nutrient are based on the Department of Health Guide to Creating a Front of Pack (FoP) Nutrition Label for Pre-packed Products Sold Through Retail Outlets:  
Traffic light labels are given per 100g/ml.
Energy (calories and kilojoules) are not coloured

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