Almost No Processed Foods Are on Track to Meet Salt Reduction Targets

Campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health says that only one in 28 foods will meet targets set by Public Health England by the end of the year.

20 March 2017, 1:40pm

The crackdown on our low-key addiction to the white stuff (we're talking about sugar, of course) may have been dominating health headlines in recent months, but it wasn't that long ago that another white substance was public enemy number one: salt. Back in 2014, numerous food companies, supermarkets, and restaurant groups made a voluntary pledge to Public Health England (PHE) to reduce the amount of salt in their products by December 2017, in an effort to stop the public from consuming more than the recommended six grams of salt a day.

But as attention turned away from salt and towards sugar, a new survey from campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) suggests that companies have swept their promises under the carpet. Released today, the survey shows that currently, only one out of 28 food products is on target to decrease salt levels.

CASH, who revealed last year that "healthy" dips like hummus can contain more salt than four bags of crisps, analysed the salt content of foods in 28 categories including meat, bread, cereals, ready meals, and drinks. The researchers measured the amount of salt against the targets set by PHE (which vary depending on the type of product) and found that bread rolls were the only foodstuff with salt levels that had been successfully reduced to meet recommended guidelines.

CASH's survey uncovered other worrying information on the amount of salt in everyday food items, too. While it's not surprising that instant noodles and shop-bought pizzas hover close to the top of the salt leaderboard, the findings showed that a single serving of powdered hot chocolate contained more salt than a bag of crisps.

No wonder we're all consuming double our daily recommended salt intake.

A diet high in salt contributes to increased risk of heart disease and stroke and accounts for 2.5 million deaths every year, according the World Health Organisation. MUNCHIES reached out to Public Health England to find out what they make of CASH's findings.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, told us: "The food industry has reduced the amount of salt found in our foods by 11 percent in recent years, which is encouraging progress. We know there is more to do. This is why we're talking to retailers, manufacturers, and the eating out of home sector on how they go further and faster to reaching the 2017 salt reduction targets."

With nine months to go, it'll be a tough deadline to meet.