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Last Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Salt campaign targets ready meals
salt cellar
High salt intake is linked to a risk of high blood pressure
A food watchdog is urging people to cut their daily salt intake by choosing healthier ready meals.

The Food Standards Agency is launching a media campaign advising people to cut salt consumption to 6g a day.

Consumers have been advised to compare salt levels in ready meals. The FSA says processed meals are responsible for about 75% of people's salt intake.

But manufacturers said there was no proof cutting salt had long-term health benefits.

However, the FSA said eating too much salt was a significant risk factor in developing high blood pressure, which contributes to more than 170,000 deaths a year in England.

And it said that, each day 26m people in the UK consume too much salt, increasing their health risks.

The FSA points to studies which have shown reducing salt in diet could lower blood pressure within four weeks.

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
Peter Hollins, of the British Heart Foundation

Men consume 11g of salt a day on average, while women's intake is 8g.

But an FSA survey of more than 2,000 people found more than a third of Britons were trying to cut down on salt.

FSA chair Deirdre Hutton said: "It's a great first step that so many people now know that too much salt is bad for them and are cutting down on the amount they add to food.

"But if we all check food labels and choose the products containing the least salt, it will help us ensure that we all eat no more than 6g a day."

She said the aim was to ensure average salt consumption was the recommended level by 2010.

Peter Hollins, director general of the British Heart Foundation, said the drive was needed.

"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."

Junk food

Martin Paterson, Deputy Director General of the Food and Drink Federation, said: "UK food manufacturers are committed to further reformulation of products and support the FSA aim of raising consumer awareness.

"We are doing our bit by reducing salt in a huge range of products and providing better, simpler information through improved labelling."

But Peter Sherratt, of the Salt Manufacturers' Association, said it was still to be proved that cutting salt produced "any long-term health benefits", adding exercise and eating healthily was of more importance.

"The government should surely be investing our money in solutions that are known to work and on finding those who need proper medical treatment."

Meanwhile, celebrity chefs and food writers have written to Tony Blair calling for him to ban junk food advertising during children's TV programmes.

The signatories to the letter, including chefs Gary Rhodes and Rick Stein, said the government should end advertising and promotions which present junk food to children as "positive and desirable" choices.

The Public Health White Paper last year said regulations should be tightened by 2007 and the TV regulator, Ofcom, is expected to publish its recommendations later this year.




SEE ALSO:
Call for junk food ad 'balance'
02 Jun 05 |  Health
Watchdog rejects salt complaint
19 Apr 05 |  Health
How much salt is in your food?
13 Sep 04 |  Health


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