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The future of salt reduction and lowering population blood pressure

UK's leading salt reduction policy in jeopardy following closure of Public Health England, which could result in a potential rise in population blood pressure 

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Today Blood Pressure UK and Action on Salt have written to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock to request an independent body be made responsible for the UK's salt reduction policy, following the reorganisation of Public Health England (PHE).

PHE have recently announced new voluntary targets for salt reduction, encouraging the food industry to play their part in improving the nation’s health by adding less salt to our food. With PHE being reorganised, the future of the UK salt reduction programme is unclear. An independent body with responsibility for salt reduction would ensure unnecessary salt is removed from our food, reducing our risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and premature death.

A PDF version of our letter is available here: Letter to Matt Hancock - The Future of Salt Reduction & Lowering Population Blood Pressure [PDF 139KB]

You can also see our summary of the need for salt reduction in the UK: The need for salt reduction brief [PDF 686KB]


Dear Secretary of State,

The UK’s salt reduction programme is a pioneering and successful public health policy which encouraged the food industry to slowly remove the huge and unnecessary amounts of salt they add to our food. This has led to a fall in salt intake in the whole UK population and thereby population blood pressure, which is estimated to have saved 18,000 stroke and heart attack events each year, 9,000 of which would have been fatal[1]. Independent research by NICE revealed that the salt reduction programme has led to annual healthcare savings of £1.5bn[2].

Despite being copied all over the world, in the last few years the policy has failed to further reduce salt intake with the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey measurement finding an intake of 8.4g/day in 2018/19 compared to 8g/day in 2014. However, salt reduction is an excellent example of a policy that can be implemented quietly and efficiently, without asking the public to change their behaviour. Over time, taste buds adapt to the less salty taste of food making it sustainable, cost-effective and hugely beneficial for health.

There is no doubt, when considering the history of salt reduction in the UK and the world, that where there is a strong independent agency that is not subject to food industry pressure or political pressure, this is when the policy has been successful. It is absolutely vital that we resuscitate what was a very successful national public health policy but it needs strong independent leadership to continue that success.

We would very much like to discuss this with you or your officials to ensure the UK continues to lead the world in salt reduction, saving thousands of people from dying needlessly from strokes and heart disease. 

Yours sincerely,

Professor Graham MacGregor

Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, Queen Mary University of London and Chair of Action on Salt and Blood Pressure UK

Ms Katharine Jenner

CEO, Blood Pressure UK

Professor Simon Capewell

Professor of Public Health and Policy, University of Liverpool

Professor Franco Cappuccio 

Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine & Epidemiology, Warwick Medical School and Head of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Nutrition

Professor Jacob George

Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Therapeutics, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee and Director of R&D, NHS Tayside

Professor Feng He

Professor of Global Health Research, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Malcolm Law 

Professor of Epidemiology & Preventative Medicine, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Christopher Millett

Professor of Public Health, Imperial College London

Professor Neil Poulter

Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, School of Public Health, Imperial College London

 

 

References

[1] He FJ, Pombo-Rodrigues S, MacGregor GA. Salt reduction in England from 2003 to 2011: its relationship to blood pressure, stroke and ischaemic heart disease mortality. BMJ Open 2014;4:e004549. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004549

[2] National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Guidance on the prevention of cardiovascular disease at the population level. http://guidance.nice.org.uk/PH25