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The UK salt campaign

The UK Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) salt campaign may have successfully reduced salt intakes by about 10% by raising public awareness of salt as a public health issue and encouraging product reformulation.

Background

Evidence has shown that a high salt intake is a major contributor to elevated blood pressure in some individuals. Elevated blood pressure is the most important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. A target of no more than 6g salt per day was, therefore, recommended by the UK’s Committee on Medical aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy in 1994 and further endorsed in 2003 by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

Actions

In 2004, the FSA launched a salt campaign to tackle the public health issue of high salt intake in the UK. The campaign had two key strategies; first an awareness campaign, using advertisements, to inform the public of the dangers of too much salt, and second, working with the food industry to encourage product reformulation. A range of media were used to deliver the messages, including TV advertising, posters, articles in the women’s press and national newspapers as well as news coverage. Both of these tactics were reported as successful. Within a year, public awareness of recommended salt intake limits increased from 3% to 34% and within three years, salt content of processed foods sold in supermarkets was reduced by 20%-30%.

Outcomes

The apparent success of the FSA salt campaign is promising. The strategy to encourage product reformulation appears to have been beneficial and a recently struck deal aims to take this further. The UK Secretary of State's 2012 Responsibility Deal on Public Health recognises that achieving the salt intake goal of no more than 6g per day will necessitate action across the whole industry, Government, non-governmental organisations and individuals. In this deal, food manufacturers and retailers have committed to further reformulate a range of food products to continue to reduce salt content.

This will not only require established techniques to reduce salt content but also the development of new ones which do not diminish flavour or cause food safety issues for certain foods. Existing ingredients and technologies are being used successfully in certain commercial products, however, these aren’t necessarily suitable for other products. Particular foods, such as bread, cheese and cakes, pose a significant problem. If salt content is to be further reduced, new ingredients or technologies must be explored.

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