Look our for hidden salt – 17th Salt Awareness Week House of Commons Reception, 2016

hidden salt cash logo

Salt Awareness Week is an annual campaign, run by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), to help reduce the amount of salt in our diets and, as a result, improve public health. Since its inception in 1996, a lot of progress has been made – a number of foods are now 50% lower in salt than they were 10 years ago. However, many of us are still consuming more than the recommended maximum intake of 6g of salt a day, which means that there is still work to be done.
[Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH] It is now 20 years since it was first set out to reduce salt in the UK. We are still well away from the 6g max per day – we all have a responsibility to read food labels and choose foods with less salt.

HoC

The House of Commons reception is an opportunity for Industry & MPs to join and discuss the future of salt reduction in the UK. Exhibitors this year included Co-op, Waitrose, Subway, Kudos Blends, Low Salt, McCain and Stroke Association, with many other supporters of the week itself.

[Sir David Amess, MP] CASH survey – released at the start of salt awareness week found that salt had increased in DApopular supermarket foods: Canned Tomato Soup, White Bread, Cheddar, Cornflakes and Chilled Ready Meals. Some were found to contain more salt that a Big Mac or slice of Dominos Pizza and bread is one of the largest contributors of salt in the UK diet. The Responsibility Deal is to blame. Since 2010, the food industry has been policing itself and little has been done to reduce salt in products. When the FSA were responsible, they set targets for 86 categories resulting in salt reductions that effectively saved the NHS £1.5 billion.  Decreasing salt by just a pinch a day can prevent 4,000 deaths from stroke every year.

Urgent action is needed to improve the nation’s health and an independent agency needs to be responsible for setting targets for salt, sugar and saturated fat.

[Lord John Krebs, Former Chairman FSA] 2003 SACN report on salt & health found that reducing salt would benefit LKeveryone not just hypertensives. Salt was the cheapest way to flavour food that had none or little flavour – so the food industry were concerned that consumers wouldn’t like it. One year later came the “Sid the Slug” TV campaign after which major retailers noted that consumer queries were mainly about salt. Reducing salt then became a marketing advantage, so despite a 15% reduction in between 2003-2011 it is disappointing that 20 years later efforts have slowed or reversed. More must be done whether it means working with industry or regulation. There needs to be more use of food chemistry/sensory techniques to look at salt alternatives more creatively. Salt is one of the easiest nutrients to reduce, but there should also be focus on fat and sugar – dietary disease is just as much an issue as alcohol and smoking.

 

[Andrew Gwynne, MP] Between 1998-2000 salt in cereals decreased 44%, 2004-2008 salt from out of home DGpurchases decreased one third. It is sad to see this has slowed – the Responsibility Deal has failed and we have seen those steps forward made going back again. It is hoped that when the Childhood Obesity Strategy is launched – that it will tackle high salt food. Labour opposition will do all that they can to make sure Government steps up to its responsibility. They will support Government in making sure messages are heard and in legislation if it’s needed because the public health gains are too important.

 

 

[Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH] In the 20 years since CASH was set up, we now know that diet is Profthe biggest cause of death/disease. Nutrition was taken away from the Department of Health to the FSA – this was a great move in reducing salt in the UK. Around the world, approx. 70 countries have copied the UK plan with slight modifications such as regulation. Many members of industry would prefer legislation – as this creates a level playing field. Andrew Lansley restructured the health service, introducing the Responsibility Deal and putting the food industry in charge. This hasn’t worked. The latest NDNS 24 hour urinary sodium excretion result will be available soon and using this CASH will be able to calculate the number of deaths that should have been prevented since the control for salt reduction was taken away from the FSA. The Responsibility Deal was under the coalition government so is now finished and nothing is happening. Hoping that this year there will be positive news from the Prime Minister.

Food Information Regulations – 1 year on…

It’s now been over one year since the deadline by which food businesses had to adjust their labels to comply with EU Regulation 1169/2011, which applies to all foods intended for the final consumer including those intended for supply to and delivered by mass caterers. This even includes foods sold by distance eg. Internet or telephone orders. (Exemptions are listed in annex V in addition to those with specific EU directives such as PARNUTS, Natural Mineral Waters)

If you are selling pre-packed foods and providing the nutrition information on the label, or have made a nutrition / health claim, then here is a summary of what you should already be doing:

The nutrition table on back of pack must include the energy value and the amount of fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, total sugars, protein and salt. You may also voluntarily include mono-unsaturates, polyunsaturates, polyols, starch, fibre and those vitamins & minerals listed and present in significant amounts as defined in annex XIII.   Only if space does not permit, can the declaration be made in a linear format.

The amounts must be expressed as sold per 100g or 100 ml in the order & using the units specified in annex XV, whilst energy values must be provided in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal). If you want to provide the values as cooked, then the cooking instructions must be included on the pack and the values must relate to the food as prepared by those instructions.

You can also provide the amounts on a per portion basis so long as the portion can be recognised by the consumer, the portion unit is quantified on the label and the number of portions in the pack has been stated. The % Reference Intakes (RI) can be included in the table (% NRV for the vitamins and minerals) and can relate to ‘per portion’ or ‘per consumption unit’. Where the % RIs are stated, the following statement must be added to the label in close proximity: Reference intake of an average adult (8 400 kJ / 2000 kcal).

Reference Intake of an average adult (8400 kJ/2000 kcal)
Contains 6 portions

 

So who enforces these labelling rules?

Local authority Trading Standards Officers or Environmental Officers check and monitor to see if food businesses are providing the correct information to consumers. If you are found to be in breach of the rules, the local authority should work with you – using a step by step approach to corrective action. If you fail to act upon previous advice, an Improvement Notice (penalty) may be issued, and this formally outlines corrective steps to be taken within a set period of time.

 

And what should you do if you think your labels are not fully compliant?

Get some advice or have your labels checked and signed off. If you get them wrong, you may have to label twice – which will increase your costs!  Having labels checked by a suitably qualified person would demonstrate that you took reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence.

Link to regulation EU 1169/2011

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