Group offers salt guidance for U.K.

by Eric Schroeder
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LONDON — New health guidance from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom suggests reducing salt intake to a maximum of 6 grams per day per adult by 2015 and 3 grams per day by 2025 may result in 15,000 to 20,000 fewer deaths from heart disease and stroke every year.

“We know that currently across the U.K., people are consuming about 8.5 grams of salt every day, and that’s two to three times higher than the level our bodies actually need, “said Simon Capewell, vice-chairman of the guidance group and an expert in public health from the University of Liverpool. “If salt levels in food are reduced by 5% to 10% a year, most consumers don’t even notice any difference in taste — their taste buds simply adjust. Meanwhile they will benefit from better health and less risk of heart disease and stroke.

“We have already seen good progress in this area. Salt levels in bread have gone down by 40% over the last five years. So although our target looks quite challenging, it is eminently feasible.”

In addition to reducing salt intake, the NICE guidance recommends manufacturers reduce the levels of saturated fat in all food products, and eliminate the use of trans fats from processed food and take-aways. Trans fats already have been banned in some European countries, as well as in a few states in the United States.

To help support the healthier food environment, the NICE guidance calls for low salt products and low saturated foods to be sold more cheaply than their higher content equivalents. NICE has not yet called for a tax on unhealthy foods, though.

“Taxation of foods is a rather blunt instrument that would not work,” said Mike Kelly, public health director at NICE.

Other guidance recommendations include extending restrictions on television advertising for foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar to 9 p.m. to protect children, and encouraging local planning authorities to restrict planning permission for take-aways and other food retail outlets in specific areas, such as within walking distance of schools.

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