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Salt advice to parents will be hard to achieve

15th May 2003

The Food Commission has warned that new government guidelines for reducing children’s salt consumption will be difficult for most parents to achieve without a significant reduction of salt in processed foods, and better food labelling.

The new salt guidelines will be issued on 15th May, by the government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). As the SACN report notes: “High blood pressure is common in the UK. It is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and premature death. Reducing the average salt intake of the population is likely to decrease the burden of high blood pressure and improve public health.”

The SACN report Salt and Health is the result of a systematic review of the scientific evidence of the effects of salt on health. It identifies the main sources of salt in people’s diets and, for the first time, sets target daily intake levels for children.

The Food Commission welcomed the Food Standards Agency’s advice to parents but warned that the food industry has strongly opposed and obstructed all previous attempts by government to set limits on salt consumption.

“A reduction in salt consumption is vital for the nation’s health” said Annie Seeley, nutritionist for the Food Commission, “but we must see a genuine commitment from the food industry to reduce levels of salt in processed foods if we are to make any significant impact on diet-related stroke and heart disease in the UK.”

A list of salty children’s food products is included below, along with examples of how children’s salt intake builds up during the day.

Note to editors

1) Most people don’t realise that they are eating high levels of salt in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereals and pastry products, yet up to 70% of their salt intake comes from processed food.

2) Food Commission surveys have shown that most food labels do not show how much salt is in a product. When the information is given, it is often listed as ‘sodium’, which must be multiplied by 2.5 to give the amount of salt. Some manufacturers (such as Marks & Spencers and the Co-op) now list the ‘salt equivalent’ and relate this to guideline daily intakes for adults.

3) Many children's breakfast cereals are still high in salt, as reported in the latest Food Magazine. See the attached PDF which highlights the high salt content of many Nestlé children's cereals.

The SACN report Salt and Health can be found on:
http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/saltandhealth0503.pdf

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    The Food Magazine warns that new government guidelines for reducing children’s salt consumption will be difficult for parents to achieve without a significant reduction of salt in processed foods, and better food labelling.