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Action on Salt

Salt Awareness Week 2017 Survey

Embargoed until 00.01 (UK time), Monday 20 March 2017

  • NEW findings reveal only 1 out of the 28 food categories surveyed by CASH are on track to meet Public Health England’s (PHE) 2017 Salt Reduction Targets - with just 9 months to go
  • New FoodSwitch UK App(1) exposes huge variations in salt content of similar shopping basket items – the saltiest shopping basket had 107g of salt compared to a basket containing the same categories of foods with only 47g of salt i.e. a 60g difference which is equivalent to 130 bags of Walkers Ready Salted crisps(2)
  • Galaxy Ultimate Marshmallow Hot Chocolate has 5 times more salt (per 100g) than the maximum target – one serving is saltier than a bag of crisps!
  • CASH is now asking PHE to immediately ensure that the 2017 targets are met and that they urgently set MANDATORY targets for 2020, as asked for by many leading supermarkets


SaltSwitch Survey 2017 - Full data [PDF 251KB]

With less than nine months to go for food manufacturers and retailers to meet the 2017 Salt Reduction Targets (3) a NEW survey(4) by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) based at Queen Mary University of London has found that, out of 28 food categories analysed, only ‘bread rolls’ has so far met the 2017 maximum, but not the average, salt target(3) and are alarmed by the lack of action so far by manufacturers and Public Health England.

The product survey(4) which was conducted using the new and updated FoodSwitch UK app and its SaltSwitch filter(5), compared two shopping baskets each containing similar everyday food items, but with different amounts of salt. The difference in salt content between the ‘unhealthy’ and ‘healthy’ baskets of products was a staggering 60g of salt.

Shock findings revealed many products far exceed the maximum salt reduction targets, for example:

  • Baxters Chef Selections Cullen Skink (1.1g salt/100g), more than 1.5 times salt (per 100g) the maximum salt reduction target for soup
  • Aldi The Fishmonger Piri Piri Smoked Mackerel Fillets (3.8g salt/serving), 4 times more salt (per 100g) the maximum salt reduction target for meal centres
  • Galaxy Ultimate Marshmallow Hot Chocolate (0.8g salt per serving), 5 times more salt (per 100g) the maximum salt reduction target for beverages

What’s more, the FoodSwitch UK app was able to demonstrate in all 28 categories there were products with at least 30% less salt, which would meet the maximum salt reduction target e.g. there was a staggering 97% difference/100g between Granola Cereals – Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Nuts & Caramel Bites (1.13g of salt/100g) and Jordans Country Crisp with Sun-Ripe Strawberries (0.03g of salt/100g).  The shopping basket analysis reaffirms the public health goal of consuming no more than 6g salt per person per day(6) (i.e. just over 1tsp salt per person/day) is achievable, yet manufacturers are dragging their heels.

To mark its 18th National Salt Awareness Week (20-26 March 2017), supported by 19 NGOs (7), CASH is now calling for PHE to immediately ensure that the 2017 targets are met and that new salt reduction targets for 2020 are set. By dithering, PHE are wasting a very cost-effective opportunity to prevent ~14,000 deaths every year, by reducing salt intakes from the current 8g to the recommended 6g, which is predicted to save the NHS a further £3billion a year (8).

According to a separate independent national poll(9), only 40% of people know that a teaspoon (6g) of salt is the maximum amount of salt you should have in a day, with nearly a quarter of the population (23%) being unsure what the correct answer is.

The general population believed that the following three food items contributed the most to the salt intake of people in the UK:

  • Ready meals, including store bought pizza (30%)
  • Crisps and other savoury snacks (16%)
  • Salt added to food when cooking (10%)

However the correct answers are bread and cereal products, which actually contribute nearly a quarter of the salt in the UK’s diet (10).  In other words PHE are also failing to educate the public about the risks they’re running in eating too much salt.  Interestingly, over half (58%) of respondents believe it should be the responsibility of the food industry to proactively reduce salt content in their products.

Katharine Jenner, Registered Nutritionist and Campaign Director for CASH explains 

“Salt is the forgotten killer.  The findings from our FoodSwitch shopping basket survey are alarming and we are shocked to see that many food manufacturers and retailers are still failing to meet the salt reduction targets, despite having had years to work towards them.  We congratulate the other, more responsible manufacturers that have successfully achieved them, or are on track to meet them by the end of the year – which shows it is possible. With only nine months to go, action must be taken now.”

Sarah Alderton, Nutritionist at CASH adds 

“Our new and improved FoodSwitch UK app has been created to help consumers make healthier and more informed choices when shopping by showing traffic light colour labelling (11) and recommending healthier product alternatives based on well researched criteria.  This is putting the power back in consumer hands, as so many manufacturers still hide behind confusing labels.”

Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH says

“This is a national scandal. The UK was leading the world in salt reduction, but PHE are doing nothing to ensure that the 2017 salt targets are met(12). NICE clearly demonstrated the huge cost savings for the NHS of salt reduction (1g reduction saves £1.5 billion per year, at a cost of less than half a million pounds a year). PHE should seize this opportunity and ensure the 2017 targets are met, as well as setting new mandatory targets for 2020, to ensure that we continue to lead the world and save the maximum number of lives.”

About FoodSwitch UK

FoodSwitch UK is a free smartphone app that enables consumers to make healthier and smarter food and drink choices – now newly updated with a new design and nutrition information given per portion - to put consumers in control whilst out shopping.
FoodSwitch UK allows users to scan the barcode of over 100,000 packaged food and drinks sold across major UK supermarkets using their smartphone camera to receive immediate, easy-to-understand ‘traffic light’ colour-coded nutritional information along with suggested similar, healthier products.  
When the barcode of a food or drink product is scanned by a smartphone, FoodSwitch UK instantly searches its database and identifies healthier products by comparing the overall nutritional value of the product based on well researched existing criteria. The overall nutritional rating takes into account a range of different factors important to general health including fats, sugars, salt, protein and fibre. The app, developed by leading UK nutrition research experts and led by The George Institute for Global Health in partnership with CASH, carries no advertising and is supported by 16 health and charitable organisations including Public Health England, Stroke Association and Heart UK.(13)

Over half of the UK population agree that having an app that tells you how much salt is in your food would be useful (58%), according to the Opinion Matters poll.

Bruce Neal, The George Institute for Global Health and inventor of FoodSwitch says
“FoodSwitch is all about putting power back into the hands of the community.  At the same time as recommending healthier alternatives to shoppers, the photographs of missing products sent in by users give us a complete picture of what’s in the food supply.  This is information that used to be the preserve of industry - we can now use it to hold big businesses directly accountable for what they are putting on the shelves.”




National PR – David Clarke: M: 07773 225516

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Notes to editors:

1. FoodSwitch UK is a free smartphone app developed by leading independent nutrition researchers:
− Consensus Action on Salt, Sugar and Health (CASSH); a charity concerned with salt and its effects on health, supported by 25 expert scientific members. CASSH is based at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and The London School of Medicine & Dentistry, Queen Mary, University of London, EC1M 6BQ, Charity Registration Number: 1098818
− The George Institute for Global Health; whose mission is to help improve the health of millions of people around the world.   
− The Medical Research Council Elsie Widdowson Laboratory (formerly Human Nutrition Research)  which aims to improve health and inform policy and practice through nutrition research and surveillance
FoodSwitch UK is available as a free, UK-only download from iTunes and Google Play.
iTunes -
Google Play
FoodSwitch UK is compatible with Apple mobile devices that have a camera with auto-focus running iOS 7.1 or later, and Android phones running versions 4.0 & above. Apple, iPhone and iTunes are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

For the full Disclaimer and Terms of Use please visit The app is free, impartial and carries no advertising.

2. A standard 32.5g packet of Walkers Ready Salted Crisps contains 0.46g of salt (8% of the daily maximum recommendation of salt)

3. 2017 Public Health Responsibility Deal Salt Reduction Targets:

4. Survey Details
The Survey used the FoodSwitch UK database to find products from a subcategory within all 28 Main Categories of food (there are 79 subcategories), as set out by the Public Health Responsibility Deal, and aimed to find healthier options that were lower in salt. The 28 Main Categories are:

Meat Products Bread Breakfast Cereals Cheese Butter
Fat Spreads Baked Beans Ready Meals and Meal Centres Soups Pizzas
Crisps and Snacks Cakes, Pastries, Fruit Pies/Other Pastry-Based Desserts Bought Sandwiches Table Sauces Cook-in and Pasta Sauces, Thick Sauces and Pastes
Biscuits Pasta Rice Other Cereals Processed Puddings
Quiche Scotch Eggs Canned Fish Canned Vegetables Meat Alternatives
Other Processed Potatoes Beverages Stocks and Gravies    

Product data was collected using the FoodSwitch Data Collector App from the major supermarkets Aldi, Asda, The Co-operative, Iceland, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.
Data was checked in store from 20th February 2017 and products mentioned in the release were purchased between 13th and 15th March 2017. See full survey for further details.

5. SaltSwitch is a filter within the FoodSwitch UK app that provides nutritional information of products per serving and lists suggested healthier alternatives that are lower in salt.

6. Adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day; but are currently eating 8g a day;

7. Salt Awareness week is supported by Alzheimer’s Society, Blood Pressure UK, British Heart Foundation, Campaign for Better Hospital Food, Children’s Food Campaign, Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, Heart UK, Heart Research UK, Kidney Research UK, National Obesity Forum, National Osteoporosis Society, Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, Polycystic Kidney Disease Charity, Real Bread Campaign, Stroke Association, UK Health Forum and World Cancer Research Fund

8. NICE Guidance on the prevention of cardiovascular disease at the population level, 1g reduction = 7,000 strokes and heart attacks prevented, and £1.5 billion healthcare savings, June 2010

9. Markettiers: on behalf of CASH by Opinion Matters, which surveyed 1,000 adults

10. According to the latest National Diet & Nutrition Survey (2011/2012), cereals and cereal products was the largest contributor to sodium intake from food for all age groups, providing 31-37%, of which 16-19% came from bread

11. Colour coding according to DH Front of Pack Guidance: Green ≤0.3/100g, Amber >0.3 - ≤1.5g, Red >1.5g /100g, >1.8g/serving for salt

12. MacGregor et al. 2015.  Food and the responsibility deal: how the salt reduction strategy was derailed:

13. FoodSwitch Supporters

About CASH

Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) is a group concerned with salt and its effects on health, supported by 25 expert scientific members. CASH is successfully working to reach a consensus with the food industry and Government over the harmful effects of a high salt diet, and bring about a reduction in the amount of salt in processed foods as well as salt added to cooking, and the table.

In the early 2000’s the UK pioneered a salt reduction strategy with the Food Standards Agency and CASH with the setting of incremental salt targets, so that the food industry was slowly reducing the huge and unnecessary amounts of salt they add to food. This resulted in a fall in UK population salt intake, a fall in average blood pressure and more than 12,000 lives have been saved from preventing strokes and heart disease. However in 2010 responsibility for salt reduction was switched to the Department of Health and the food industry was made responsible for policing itself, a policy that unsurprisingly failed. However further salt reduction targets were set to be achieved by 2017 but little action has been taken to ensure the food industry is meeting these targets. PHE are now responsible for the UK salt reduction programme but so far have done little or nothing. All of the above has meant that the salt reduction programme has been slowed down with the result that many thousands of people have died unnecessarily and huge and unnecessary costs have been incurred by the NHS. Salt is the forgotten killer; the time has come for PHE to allocate sufficient resources to immediately resuscitate the UK salt reduction programme.

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