June 19, 2013
LONDONNew research from Queen Mary University found salt levels in packaged bread sold in the United Kingdom have been reduced by an average of 20% over the past 10 years. The findings come on the heels of a 2013 study that found the UKs salt reduction efforts are paying off in the five years following the kick-off of a national salt-reduction campaign.
In 2003, the UK Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health launched a national salt-reduction campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of salt on health and to work with the food industry to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods.
For this study, the Queen Mary University researchers examined surveys conducted by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) that looked at salt reductions made over time in packaged bread sold in the UK. Approximately 75% of the salt consumed in the UK and other developed countries come from processed foods, and bread is the single largest contributor of salt in the diet (one fifth), because bread is such a large part of the UK diet. Results show that bakers have gradually reduced the levels of salt in their products, and should be congratulated, with approximately 2,400 strokes and heart attack events prevented each year, but much bigger reductions can be made.
"These results provide evidence that the UK salt reduction strategy, based on a series of salt targets for different food groups, has been working," said Katharine Jenner, campaign director for CASH.
However, a wide variation in salt levels was found, with many products now below the Department of Health 2012 targets, indicating that further reductions can be made. Branded products are lagging behind; in 2011, just under 90% of supermarkets had met or were below the 2012 targets, compared to under 50% of branded products. The Department of Health is currently in the process of setting new targets for all of the products that are major contributors of salt in the diet, including bread.
By reducing the average salt content of bread by a further 10% to 0.9g/100g (a figure which 27% of products already met in 2011) we could make a further reduction in population salt intake of 0.11g/person/day, resulting in approximately 1,200 fewer heart attacks and strokes every year. By reducing the salt content further still to 0.8g/100g (a figure which 11% already met) the reductions to population salt intake would be approximately 0.22g/person/day, resulting in approximately 2,400 fewer heart attacks and strokes every year. This is just from a reduction in the salt content of bread to levels that are already available in the supermarket own brands.
Many health authorities agree that reducing sodium consumption will improve the health of consumers worldwide. But reducing sodium is easier said than done, as sodium plays key roles in the safety and flavor of food products. But there are a number of sodium-reduction strategies that can help lower sodium in foodservice and processed foods without sacrificing safety or flavor. Download the Lower-Sodium Formulating" Special Report from Food Product Design to learn more about governmental guidelines for acceptable sodium content in food products; an overview of the sodium-reduction targets for restaurant food categories in the United States; and sodium-reduction strategies that preserve both the safety and flavor of food products.
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