The study shows that a campaign by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has raised consumer awareness of the issue. A campaign by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) on salt intake may have succeeded in reducing consumption by 10% and raising public awareness of the public health problem it represents; It also influenced the reformulation of some products.
This is the conclusion of a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Reading, the University of Bologna and the University of London, as part of the EATWELL (Interventions to Promote Healthy Eating Habits: Evaluation and Recommendations) project, which evaluates healthy eating interventions.
Evidence has shown that high salt intake is a major contributor to high blood pressure in some individuals, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and the leading cause of death worldwide.
Therefore, no more than 6 grams of salt per day is recommended, according to the UK’s Commission on the Medical Aspects of Food and Dietary Policy in 1994, and later endorsed in 2003 by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.
This recommendation also applies throughout Europe (Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers).
In 2004, the FSA launched the Salt Campaign to tackle the public health problem of high salt consumption in the UK.
The campaign had two basic strategies: first, a series of advertisements to raise awareness and inform the public about the dangers of excess salt, and second, in cooperation with the food industry to promote product reformulation.
During the first year, public awareness of salt consumption within recommended limits increased from 3% to 34%; and after three years, the salt content of processed foods sold in supermarkets has been reduced by 20%-30%.
Most importantly, the FSA reported a 10% reduction in actual salt consumption, although there has been some controversy about the effectiveness of public policy in influencing salt intake. In fact, other factors may have contributed to the decline, such as changes in food prices.
The apparent success of the FSA salt campaign is promising. The strategy to encourage product reshaping appears to have been beneficial, and the recent agreement aims to go further.
The UK Secretary of State’s 2012 Public Health Accountability Agreement recognizes that achieving the salt consumption target of no more than 6g per day will require action by industry, government, NGOs and individuals.
With this agreement, food manufacturers and retailers committed to reformulating a wider range of food products to continue to reduce salt content.
This requires not only established techniques for reducing salt content, but also the development of innovations that do not diminish the taste and do not cause problems with the safety of certain foods.
Existing ingredients and technologies are used successfully in some commercial products, but they are not necessarily suitable for other products. Certain foods, such as bread, cheese and cakes, are a big problem.
If the salt content is even lower, new ingredients and technologies must be explored.
As a result, the Food and Drink Federation and the British Retail Consortium commissioned Leatherhead Food to carry out research into ways to reduce salt in food.
Leatherhead Food Research outlines possible solutions in its report, concluding that, although they exist, there is no simple solution for difficult food categories.
They warn that one cannot assume the same formulation or use the same technology for all products in a certain category, but each manufacturer must seek a solution for its own formulation and processing conditions, sensory verification, safety, labeling and cost issues of the finished product.
Therefore, it may take some time before complete solutions are commercially available.