Wednesday, October 21, 1998 Published at 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Experts urge assault on salt
Salt reduction could lower death rates by thousands, say experts
All food manufacturers should reduce the amount of salt they put in processed food by up to 25%, according to health experts.
A health pressure group called Consensus Action on Salt and Hypertension (CASH) says manufacturers should follow the lead of supermarket giant Asda which recently introduced a salt reduction initiative.
They say taste tests show a majority of people prefer food with less salt.
But they believe some food manufacturers are against reducing levels because it will lower their profits.
They say salt is the cheapest flavour enhancer and soaks up water which can increase the weight of some food, such as frozen meat, by up to a quarter.
They also accuse some soft drink manufacturers of adding salt to their products to increase people's thirst and boost their profits.
The government is expected to publish its White Paper on public health shortly.
The British Heart Foundation recently stated that reducing salt intake by 30% could lower the risk of strokes by 22% and heart attacks by 16%.
Salt has been shown to increase blood pressure.
CASH, which includes professors from major British hospitals, says this would cut deaths by 34,000 a year.
It adds that up to 80% of the public's salt intake comes from processed foods and that poorer people are more likely to eat these. Bread and cereals alone account for a third of salt intake.
It accuses food manufacturers of organising a media campaign to suggest there is controversy about salt among health workers.
"These companies and some umbrella organistions have carried out a sustained media campaign to try and convince politicians, nutritionists, health professions, doctors and the public that there is controversy about salt when in fact there is none."
CASH says the companies are now trying to lobby the government to ensure there are no specific recommendations about salt in the White Paper.
They urge the government not to give in, as they say the Conservatives did over similar recommendations contained in a 1994 report by a government-appointed committee.
However, the American Heart Association has acknowledged controversy about the role of salt in increasing blood pressure.
In a recent special section on salt in its magazine Hypertension, some scientists say overall diet is more important for people with a tendency to high blood pressure than simply reducing salt.
The AHA recommends both salt reduction and a high-mineral low-fat diet for people with high blood pressure.
The USA has one of the highest levels of strokes and heart attacks in the world.