The Incorrectness of Salt

Since our blood has about the same saltiness as seawater, the claim that our bodies cannot handle salt safely is absurd. We are in fact very good at it. Salt has been implicated in raised blood pressure but if that were really a concern, a much more constructive approach would be to add potassium (which lowers blood pressure) to food rather than removing salt. Both are natural food components. Also see the research report following the article immediately below – a report which shows that a low salt diet is actually BAD for you. So it is really a puritanical desire to reduce people’s pleasures that motivates the anti-salt brigade. They only look at evidence that suits them

Britain’s food watchdog was accused last night of endangering the lives of 15,000 people a year after backing down on strict guidelines designed to limit the amount of salt in food. Health campaigners were furious at the decision by the Food Standards Agency to publish revised targets to cut salt in 85 types of food products by 2010. In many cases the agency raised levels after feedback from companies which claimed that they were unable to cut salt in certain products for technical or safety reasons.

Increases in permitted levels recommended by the agency included: Raising the salt allowed in crisps such as Quavers and Skips from 1.4g to 3.4g per 100g; Ketchup up from 1.8g to 2.4g; Savoury biscuits up from 1.3g to 2.2g.

The agency said that it still hoped to cut the overall intake of salt per person per day from 10g to 6g within four years. But medical experts said that the new targets meant this would not be met, especially as the targets cannot be imposed on the food industry. If salt intake were cut to 6g per day, it would prevent 70,000 heart attacks and strokes a year, of which 35,000 are fatal. If intake fell only to 8g a day, 15,000 people would die unnecessarily.

“Products like Quavers and Wotsits are still going to be allowed to contain more salt than in seawater,” Professor Graham MacGregor, head of cardio-vascular medicine at St George’s Hospital, in Tooting, southwest London, said. “If by 2010 we only get salt consumption down to 8g a day then that will result in another 30,000 strokes and heart attacks and some 15,000 will be fatal. The new targets reflect the naked power of the food industry that is just not interested in the health of the people it feeds.”

The National Heart Forum also expressed concern about “laggards” in the food industry who were failing to tackle salt reduction. Paul Lincoln, its chief executive, said that the firms resisting change should be “named and shamed”. He pointed the finger at manufacturers of children’s foods such as crisps, pizzas, bread, processed cheese and biscuits for making slowest progress in reducing salt. “The problem is these targets are voluntary,” he said. “Some companies have demonstrated that it is possible to make significant and rapid reductions. However, without the threat of any sanctions or penalties some sectors are clearly unwilling to press ahead with healthy reformulations.”

Malcolm Kane, an independent food safety consultant, said: “The new targets reveal a food industry still defending the use of excess salt in processed foods based upon weak arguments referring to technical reasons or food safety which are largely irrelevant to contemporary food processing conditions.”

The FSA said that its targets were realistic. The agency also said it was pleased with the efforts made by manufacturers and supermarkets to cut salt. Salt in bread was already down by 30 per cent, in breakfast cereals reduced by 33 per cent, and down a third in Kraft cheese spreads and snacks. Manufacturers were also committed to reducing salt in soups and sauces by 30 per cent.

However, some campaigners believe that the agency is running scared of the food industry after a recent rift over the need for red warning labels on junk food. Only Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Asda have endorsed “traffic light” alerts that will show levels of salt, sugar, fat and saturated fat. Gill Fine, the agency’s director of consumer choice, said: “We believe that the salt levels set out represent a realistic rate of reduction which will have a real impact on consumers’ intakes.”

She said that the targets would be reviewed in 2008 to ensure people were on track to achieve a 6g maximum daily intake of salt by 2010. The targets mean that Stilton cheese has been granted a reprieve. The FSA had originally wanted to cut its salt content from 2.5g per 100g to 1.9g.

Cheesemakers argued that salt reduction could threaten the viability of the 33 million pound a year industry which employs at least 500 people.


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