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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 February 2008, 17:08 GMT
Hide the salt pots, says minister
Salt cellar
Salt cellars encourages a taste for it early on, says the baroness
Salt pots on the dinner table should be removed to help improve children's diets, a government minister has said.

Asked about cutting salt in children's food, Baroness Thornton said "great progress" had been made, but much of it boiled down to taste.

Children got used to seeing salt at meals and peers should commit to "no salt pots on their tables", she said.

Guidance is that adults should eat no more than 6g a day, about a teaspoon, while babies should eat less than 1g.

Labour peer - and crime fiction writer Baroness Rendell - had demanded to know what the government was doing about reducing salt intake in children's food.

Reversed trend

She complained about the habit of manufacturers of calling salt "sodium" or "sodium chloride" on their food labels - which could prove confusing to some parents.

Baroness Thornton said much work had been done, both by the Food Standards Agency and manufacturers to reduce salt in 85 different types of processed food, alongside a major public awareness campaign, which would be evaluated towards the end of the year.

It is to do with the fact that we all have salt pots on our table and our children are used to seeing that
Baroness Thornton

Asked why advertising salty foods could not be banned before 2100 GMT, she also said the UK had "the most comprehensive programme of salt reduction in the world" and had reversed a rising trend in salt intake.

But she was asked why the government was "dithering" over forcing manufacturers of children's snacks to reduce the salt content.

The minister said the UK was doing more than other countries but agreed "a lot of this is to do with taste and habit".

"It is to do with the fact that we all have salt pots on our table and our children are used to seeing that," she said.

"In fact, noble lords should make a commitment themselves: No salt pots on their tables."

She said targets for reducing salt were being monitored and "firm action" would be taken if necessary, but the number of people cutting down in salt had increased by more than a third, thanks to awareness campaigns.

It is thought that reducing salt intake to the recommended levels could reduce deaths from strokes by 24% and from coronary heart disease by 18%.

A study by the Journal of Human Hypertension last September suggested that the average British four year old was eating 4.7g of salt a day - putting their heart at risk by raising their blood pressure. The recommended amount for that age group is 2-3g.

SEE ALSO
Scots urged to 'hide salt cellar'
13 Sep 04 |  Scotland
Salt 'could fuel child obesity'
21 Feb 08 |  Health
Shake-up for takeaway salt cellar
02 Feb 08 |  North East Wales

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