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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 January, 2004, 07:22 GMT
Salt 'will claim 1,000 lives'
Processed foods often have high salt content
Up to 1,000 people will die in Northern Ireland this year because they have eaten too much salt, a leading charity has warned.

The NI Chest, Heart and Stroke Association has accused the government and food producers of failing to help the public to do anything about the problem.

Wednesday is Salt Awareness Day 2004.

Across the UK, about 34,000 people will die through high salt consumption, said the charity.

Chief Executive Andrew Dougal said producers had to cut unnecessary salt levels as a matter of urgency.

Do not add salt at the table - use flavourings like herbs and spices
If you have time, bake your own bread
Make your own stock instead of using stock cubes
When buying tinned vegetables, go for brands with no added salt
Avoid crisps and salted peanuts
Go easy on bacon, sausages and takeaway foods
Check food labels - anything with less than 0.2 grams of sodium per hundred grams is fine
Food containing more than half a gram of sodium per hundred grams should be avoided

"A bowl of cornflakes, for example, has the same salt concentration as seawater," he said.

"The problem is that the average person has no way of telling, simply by looking at the food label.

"It may list sodium, but to find the true salt content, you need to multiply the sodium level by two and a half."

Salt raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart attack or stroke.

It has also been linked to stomach cancer, osteoporosis and kidney problems.

However, the Chest, Heart and Stroke Association said most of the salt consumed is "hidden" in processed foods.

'Tinned produce'

It said about 80% of people surveyed carried out by CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) found current salt labelling incomprehensible.

"The best medical advice is for adults to eat no more than six grams of salt each day, and for children to eat only half of that," said Mr Dougal.

"The biggest problem is that children tend to consume even more processed food than their parents, in the form of crisps, pre-prepared snacks, and tinned produce.

"Even commercially produced bread, which is regarded as a healthy food, contains half the salt of seawater."

CASH and the NI Chest, Heart and Stroke Association said they wanted the government and food manufacturers to introduce much clearer and simpler labelling.

The problem is that most people cannot tell how much salt they are eating because it is added to their food without their consent, and the true salt content is disguised by confusing and misleading labelling
Graham MacGregor

The charity said a third of people had raised blood pressure, a major cause of strokes and heart attacks and salt intake was an important contributory factor.

The government recommends salt consumption of no more than 6 grams per day (3g or less for children), but most adults consume around 12g.

CASH chairman Graham MacGregor said: "Food manufacturers must take responsibility for reducing intake.

"The problem is that most people cannot tell how much salt they are eating because it is added to their food without their consent, and the true salt content is disguised by confusing and misleading labelling."

Among the events planned for Wednesday is a meeting in the House of Commons at which Melanie Johnson, the public health minister who has urged manufacturers to take action, is due to speak.

Less salt 'would save thousands'
12 Dec 03  |  Health
Sausage survey shows salt threat
03 Sep 03  |  Health

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