Food standards body steps up salt campaign

Posted by James Ferre on 6th October 2009

Over three quarters of people (77%) are not aware that bread and breakfast cereals are among leading salt-contributing foods in our diet, according to a new UK Food Standards Agency survey.Foods that contribute the most salt to the average diet are not necessarily the saltiest, but the ones consumers eat most often. The top three salt-contributing foods are bread, followed by meat products, then breakfast cereals, the Agency suggests.

When asked to pick the top three from a list of the 10 foods that contribute the most salt to our diets, only 13% of people mentioned bread, and 12% said breakfast cereals.

Interestingly, the survey suggested consumers were not overly confident about the health of private label, with 40% assuming they have higher salt than branded goods.

A campaign led by the FSA and WASH (World Action on Salt and Health) has sought to tackle the issue of salt overconsumption and food manufacturers have been steadily getting on board. Indeed, the country is now considered a leader when it comes to product reformulation to reduce salt content. It is an ongoing process for food manufacturers around the world as they look to find away to cut salt levels without sacrificing taste.

“Salt intakes are coming down, but if we are to get closer to meeting our target of reducing intakes to 6g a day, people need to become more aware of the foods which contribute to intakes, as it isn’t just the obvious things we need to watch out for as far as salt is concerned,” Rosemary Hignett, Head of Nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, said. “We’re not suggesting people stop eating or even cut down on bread or breakfast cereals, because they are important part of a healthy diet. But we are saying take a look at the labels to find one that is lower in salt.””We‘ve been working closely with food manufacturers and retailers to encourage them to use less salt in their foods, and are pleased with the progress that is being made. But there is still a wide variation of salt levels in different brands, which is why it is so important that people check the labels.”

Other highlights from the survey included:

* When asked to pick the top three contributors, from a list of the 10 foods that contribute the most salt to our diets, the foods most commonly mentioned were crisps and snacks (73%), ready meals (65%) and meat products (36%).
* About 85% of people tend to stick to the same brands of foods they buy regularly, such as bread, ketchup and breakfast cereals. However, a quarter of these people (26%) said they would change from their usual brand if they knew that a lower salt option was available.
* 37% of respondents were either ‘very concerned’ or ‘quite concerned’ about the amount of salt they eat.