Let’s take action this Salt Awareness Week:
Written by Sheena Bhageerutty
This year we are celebrating our 24th Salt Awareness Week between the 15th and 21st May 2023.
Over the years, high quality research has shown a direct relationship between salt and high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, which are the biggest causes of death in the UK, with a person suffering from these often-debilitating conditions every 5 minutes (1).
It is important to note, that many of these cases can be prevented. It is therefore vital that the Government and food industry take all the necessary measures to improve our health and prevent these events from happening. The maximum recommended salt intake in the UK is 6g a day for an adult, however, we are currently eating 40% more than this (8.4g/day)(2). Whilst that might not sound like a significant amount, at a population level it has a profound effect – with just 1 less ‘pinch’ a day having the potential to save over 6,000 lives every year in the UK.
75% of the salt we eat is already in the foods we buy, some of the obvious examples include ready meals and crisps. It is important to note that food does not necessarily have to taste salty to be salty, for example, three in four sliced breads contain as much salt or more per slice than a packet of ready salted crisps (3). But how can we ditch the salt, when everything we buy is full of it?
Companies are frequently improving and updating recipes, known as reformulation. This is not an unusual concept in the food industry, and we are actively benefiting from these small changes by inadvertently eating less salt – and we’ve barely noticed! Whilst the UK was once a world-leading salt reduction programme, the progress for salt reduction has slowed and we are seeing salt levels in popular food categories increasing(4).
The food industry plays a major role in determining what we eat, through targeted advertising and marketing practices. However, they are no longer taking salt reduction seriously. This is why Action on Salt is advocating for the Government to step up and ensure that food companies provide better and healthier food options for us all. But we need your help, too.
You can help spread the message and raise awareness by doing one or more of the following:
- Write to your local authority to ask how they are addressing the level of salt intake in your community
- Share a blog/post on your social media account on the effects that salt has on health and the simple ways to reduce salt intake #saltawarenessweek
- Organise displays within community settings such as libraries and health-care centres to talk about the importance of reducing salt
- Showcase your inner chef by cooking and sharing low salt recipes
- Leaflet and poster distribution to schools, catering colleges and doctor’s surgeries
- Set up a quiz or presentation on salt and health for the public or your team
- British Heart Foundation 2023, UK CVD Factsheet Available at https://www.bhf.org.uk/-/media/files/for-professionals/research/heart-statistics/bhf-cvd-statistics-uk-factsheet.pdf?rev=e771367bf0654a4dae85cbc9dbefae17&hash=76C0182379BB6EE118EC6F76FA35A158
- Public Health England 2020, National Diet and Nutrition Survey Assessment of salt intake from urinary sodium in adults (aged 19 to 64 years) in England, 2018/19. Available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/876252/Report_England_Sodium_Survey_2018-to-2019__3_.pdf
- Action on Salt Bread Survey 2023, Call to Reduce Salt Content in Bread as Three in Four Products are as Salty as a Packet of Crisps in Just One Slice. Available at: https://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/salt-surveys/2023/bread/#d.en.1028868
- Burt H E, Brown M K, He F J, MacGregor G A. Salt: the forgotten foe in UK public health policy BMJ 2022; 377 :e070686 doi:10.1136/bmj-2022-070686