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Tuesday, June 22, 1999 Published at 18:35 GMT 19:35 UK


Review of salt in foods

Supermarket food will come under scrutiny

The food and drink manufacturing industry plans to conduct a review of the purpose and use of salt in processed foods following concern that levels are too high and pose a health risk.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), acting for the food and drink manufacturing industry as a whole, announced on Tuesday a review of "the functionality and usage of sodium in manufactured foods".

Salt is the main source of sodium in the diet and manufactured foods contribute around three quarters of the salt in the average diet.

A recent Committee on Medical Aspects (Coma) report on nutrition and heart disease concluded that reducing the amount of salt we eat by one-third could save at least 34,000 lives each year.

Sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

There is also increasing concern that a high salt intake is linked to asthma, osteoporosis and kidney disease.

Minister for Public Health Tessa Jowell welcomed the move.

She said: "This review will provide an authoritative addition to the growing body of research on salt. In recent years there has been considerable debate about levels of salt intake, but there is now a large body of authoritative opinion favouring a general reduction.

"A good diet is an important way of protecting health. We know that unhealthy diets, which tend to include too little fruit and vegetables and too much salt and fatty foods, are associated with heart disease and stroke and some cancers - as are, for example, smoking, excess alcohol consumption and lack of exercise."

Research urgently needed

[ image: Tessa Jowell welcomed the review]
Tessa Jowell welcomed the review
Ms Jowell said sound research was urgently needed on how much salt is actually necessary in manufactured foods and what scope there is for reduction.

She said officials from the Department of Health were already talking to the industry about the possibility of reducing the levels of salt in manufactured foods.

"It is particularly appropriate that the FDF should announce this initiative when we are shortly to unveil our Public Health White Paper.

"This will set out the Government's plans to combat the biggest causes of premature death and avoidable ill-health and will include the reduction of coronary heart disease as one of its top priorities."

The FDF's Sodium Review will look at:

  • The salt content of different products
  • The function of salt in each product
  • Previous and planned reductions of salt in standard products
  • The scope for - and constraints to - further reductions
  • The range of reduced and low-salt products currently available
  • Labelling issues

The FDF aims to publish the results of its review by the end of the year.

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