Sep 14 2004
Britain's Food Standards Agency has launched a major public health campaign to reduce high salt consumption in the UK.
Eating too much salt is a significant risk factor in developing high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a cause or contributing factor in 170,000 deaths a year in England alone
Every day at least 26 million people eat more than the recommended daily limit of 6g of salt. Men are eating the most with a daily average of 11.0g of salt while women consume an average of 8.1g a day
The cost to the NHS of prescriptions for reducing high blood pressure is around £840 million, nearly 15% of the total annual cost of all primary care drugs
Studies show that reducing salt in the diet can lower blood pressure within four weeks which helps protect the individual and reduces the cost to the National Health Service.
Food Standards Agency Chair Sir John Krebs (pictured below) said: 'High blood pressure really is the "silent killer" as those living with it are three times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, and twice as likely to die from these diseases as those with normal levels.
'The human cost in terms of illness and death and the costs to the NHS are very high. Cutting down on salt can significantly reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. Everybody has got used to eating too much salt. We want to encourage everyone to see how they can reduce the salt they eat.
'By cutting back on adding salt to food at home and when eating out, as well as looking at what's on the labels of processed foods, it's possible for people to make positive health choices.'
The Food Standards Agency also recognises that further reductions of salt in processed foods and better labelling of salt on food products is required if people are to make changes to their own diet and reduce their salt intake.
Sir John Krebs added: 'Many in the food industry have introduced salt reduction programmes and, to their credit, many major retailers and manufacturers now label products with the salt content.
'These steps are welcome and represent considerable progress from some sectors of the industry since we published our advice on salt consumption in May 2003.
'The food industry is about two-thirds of the way to reaching our target of a 1g reduction in processed foods by the end of 2005. However, to reach the ambitious target of 6g per day by 2010 will require further action by both consumers and industry if we are to reduce the human and health costs of eating too much salt.'
Peter Hollins, Director General of the British Heart Foundation, said: 'We are delighted to support the FSA's campaign which highlights the dangers of eating too much salt.
'High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, and one most people can tackle by simply cutting down the salt in their diet.
'We want it to be made easier for the consumer to be aware of the salt levels in food so they are empowered to protect their heart health by eating safe amounts.'
Unilever UK Chair Gavin Neath said: 'Unilever is fully supportive of the FSA's initiative on salt. Unilever, along with other food companies, has been working closely and effectively with the Agency over the past 18 months to reduce gradually salt levels right across our product range.
'We intend to continue doing this into the future in an effort to make a positive contribution to the diet and health of the nation.'
Approximately 75% of salt consumed is from processed foods, 10-15% is added by consumers and 10-15% is naturally present in food.
Nickie Roberts, Executive Director of the Blood Pressure Association said: 'We strongly support the Food Standards Agency's campaign and are delighted that it has launched during our national blood pressure testing week.
'Reducing salt intake will lower blood pressure and will save thousands of people dying or suffering from strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.
'The Blood Pressure Association is tackling this through its "Know Your Numbers!" campaign to drive home the importance of every adult taking action on blood pressure in order to prevent needless suffering.
'Anyone who wants to know more about how cutting salt intake will lower blood pressure should get in touch with the BPA.'
Sid the Slug, the FSA's health awareness campaign tool
Sid the slug is a sympathetic character created by ad agency HHCL/Red Cell and developed by the internationally acclaimed Jim Henson's Creature Shop to front the multimedia health campaign.
He will appear in all TV, national poster and print advertising and on the dedicated campaign website. Salt kills slugs, and Sid the slug will highlight the link between eating too much salt and the increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
For more information about the campaign go to www.salt.gov.uk