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20 years of Salt Awareness Week
Campaign group Action on Salt commemorate 20 years of their annual awareness-raising campaign
Salt Awareness Week is an annual campaign putting the spotlight on salt and the damage it does to our health. Action on Salt host the event every March, calling for the governments and food industry to take responsibility for their effect on our health.
This was the 20th anniversary of the annual campaign, and a time to reflect on the progress made and the road ahead. The UK’s salt reduction strategy once led the world in lowering population salt intakes by reducing the amount of salt added to food by manufacturers, but recent years have seen slow progress.
Salt puts up our blood pressure, and cutting down on salt is one of the simplest ways to improve your heart health. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence estimates that every 1g salt reduction could save our over-burdened NHS £1.5 billion in healthcare costs.
While supermarkets and some brands continue to lower the amount of salt they use in many products, the out of home sector – restaurants, cafes and takeaways – have been lagging behind. Children’s meals in particular have proved to be a critical area for improvement, demonstrated in their new survey of children's meals in restaurants and a recent Public Health England report on the food industry’s progress on meeting the 2017 salt reduction targets.
The SAW reception
Every year the Action on Salt team host a reception, bringing politicians, food manufacturers and health professionals together to raise awareness, celebrate success and motivate teams to act on the issue of salt in food. The event was held at Bart’s Great Hall with a panel discussion from nutrition experts from the worlds of Public Health and the food industry.
It was attended by food and product manufactures Lo Salt, Kiddyum, McCain, The Children’s Healthy Food Company, Children’s Food Campaign, Mars. We were there too, giving blood pressure checks and healthy living advice.
The panel discussion raised many interesting questions and solutions, for example:
• How do we build a better and healthier food environment for children where salt is concerned? Asked by Barbara Crowther, Coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign
• The next steps to reduce children’s salt intake is to have a Children’s Minister at Cabinet level – a voice for children. Suggested by Kay Shearing, Founder of The Children’s Healthy Food Company.
• Everyone must work together to reduce salt consumption in the UK – restaurants currently offer both high salt and low salt meals on children’s menus so PHE must come into play with legislation. Stated by Jenny Rosborough, Head of Nutrition at the Jamie Oliver Group.
• The Secretary of State for Health must take action with the salt reduction targets to prevent further unnecessary deaths from stroke and heart disease. Stated Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of Blood Pressure UK and Action on Salt.
• PHE are committed to working towards further reductions in salt and will continue to provide evidence to the Department of Health and Social Care for potential legislative action. Stated by Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England.
Katharine Jenner, CEO of Blood Pressure UK and Campaign Director at Action on Salt said: “The salt reduction work in the UK is incredibly important. Salt is such a simple seasoning, it appears completely harmless. In most foods people don’t even know it’s there. But it raises our blood pressure more than any other food, more than a lack of activity, more than smoking. Cutting out salt is the best thing you can do for your health and the food industry need to step up and take responsibility for the damaging effect they are having on our health.”
With thanks for the photos to Robert Harris, Head of Digital Services at St George’s University of London.