Campaigners urge UK government to legislate on salt reduction

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17 May 2018 --- Campaign group, Action on Salt, has criticized a new Food and Drink Federation (FDF) report that highlights the food industry’s reformulation work to reduce sugar but claims cutting salt is not being given enough attention and urges the government to step up legislation.

According to Action on Salt, if the industry does not voluntarily take action to reduce salt in the same manner as it has done sugar, then Public Health England, should enforce new laws to shake up reformulation of food products and cut down on salt content.
 
The FDF’s report, “'Feeding Change,” states that members have reduced the level of sugar in the average shopping basket by 12.1 percent, however, there is very little mention of salt reduction.
 
It talks about how soft drink companies have reduced sugars from their products by 19 percent between 2013 and 2018 and how, with the support of industry, the UK Government has set up “the most ambitious sugars reduction program anywhere in the world to help lower sugar in the national diet.”
 
In April, the long-awaited sugar tax came into force in the UK pushing up the price of sugar-sweetened soft drinks across Britain, shortly followed by a similar levy in Ireland. It had been anticipated for years and agile companies had plenty of time to reformulate products before the tax started to bite.
 
The UK sugar tax has two tiers; a lower rate of 18 pence per liter for drinks with a total sugar content between 5-8g per 100ml and a higher rate of 24 pence per liter for drinks with total sugar more than 8g per 100ml.
 
The UK government and health advocates hope the new legislation will lead to a dramatic decline in childhood obesity in the country which last November was ranked as the most overweight nation in Western Europe.
 
But, keeping the sugar tax aside and the massive reformulation work that has been carried out, Action on Salt is calling for the same sort of focus on salt reduction.
 
As part of the UK Government’s Childhood Obesity program, PHE also published salt reduction targets for last year, saying that businesses are expected to continue working towards salt reduction, including those for the eating out of home sector.

Commenting on the new FDF report and its lacks of focus on salt, Campaign Manager at Action on Salt, Sonia Pombo pushes for salt legislation. 
 
“This report has very little mention of the more recent 2017 salt targets, or whether companies have been able to achieve them, which is very disappointing to see,” said Sonia Pombo, Campaign Manager at Action on Salt.
 
“This highlights more than ever the need for stricter monitoring and enforcement from Public Health England which we’ve been campaigning for. If companies are failing to continue in their salt reduction journey voluntarily then government must consider legislation.”
 
Kawther Hashem, Nutritionist at Action on Sugar, is encouraged by some of the progress being made but is also calling for more action.
 
“It’s evident that more must be done by food and drink manufacturers to continue to reduce not only added sugars and salt but also saturated fats in their products. We need robust and mandatory reduction targets with strict penalties for those companies who do not comply.”

On its “Feeding Changes” report, the FDF says that over the last five years members have also reduced energy in the average basket by 5.5 percent.

It also says that during the lifetime of the latest salt targets (2012-2017) FDF’s members have reduced salt content by a further 11.4 percent, continuing to build on more than 15 years of steady reformulation work.
 
Using individual company case studies, the report highlights a range of industry action; from reformulating products to reduce salt, fat and sugar, to limiting portion sizes and innovating to bring new, healthier options to the market, according to the FDF.
 
“At a time when one in three children are leaving primary school overweight or obese, industry’s ground-breaking work to tackle this issue is more important than ever,” said Kate Halliwell, FDF Head of UK Diet and Health Policy.
 
“In this report, we aim to provide a snapshot of the great work FDF members have done to improve the nation’s diet. FDF and its members recognize they have a role to play in tackling obesity, but we cannot do it alone. Through continued collaboration with Governments across the UK and other industry stakeholders, we are committed to being part of the solution and to improving the nation’s diet – and our commitment is demonstrated in this new report.”

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