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Amanda is Healthy Food Guide's nutrition editor with a degree in nutrition and a post-grad diploma in dietetics. She is a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and The Guild of Food...

New salt guidelines are a matter of life and death, says CASH.

Today we are at the Houses of Parliament for the 18th Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) annual reception to hear more about its call for salt reduction targets to become mandatory for 2020.

With new findings showing that only one out of the 28 food categories CASH surveyed are meeting Public Health England’s 2017 Salt Reduction Targets to date, it is time, says CASH, to get tough and have targets set in legislation.

By dithering, it says, Public Health England (PHE) is wasting a cost-effective opportunity to prevent approximately 14,000 deaths every year. Reducing salt intakes from the current daily average intake of 8g to the recommended 6g limit is predicted to save the NHS a further £3billion a year.

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‘This is a national scandal,’ says Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of CASH. ‘The UK was leading the world in salt reduction, but PHE is doing nothing to ensure that the 2017 salt targets are met.

NICE clearly demonstrated the huge cost savings for the NHS of salt reduction, with a 1 gram daily reduction in recommended limits potentially saving £1.5 billion per year, at a cost of less than £500,000 a year.

‘PHE should seize this opportunity and ensure the 2017 targets are met, as well as setting new mandatory targets for 2020, to ensure that we continue to lead the world and save the maximum number of lives.’

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The app that helps you take back control

Meanwhile, we can help ourselves to become ‘salt savvy’ by using the new SaltSwitch filter on CASH’s newly updated FoodSwitch UK app – which gives nutrition information per portion – to put us in control while out shopping. The free app shows traffic light labelling and recommends healthier product alternatives based on well researched criteria. ‘This is putting the power back in consumer hands, as so many manufacturers still hide behind confusing labels,’ says Sarah Alderton, nutritionist at CASH.

On analysing shopping baskets, the charity’s researchers discovered salt to be lurking in the most unlikely of places, with products like Galaxy Ultimate Marshmallow Hot Chocolate adding 0.8g of salt per serving.

Not only is this almost a sixth of our daily maximum from a source you could be forgiven for not bothering to check for salt, it’s five times more per 100g than the maximum salt reduction goal for beverages.

Highlighting other issues such as a 97% difference in salt levels between granola cereals such as Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Nuts & Caramel Bites, with 1.13g per 100g and Jordans Country Crisp With Sun-ripe Strawberries, which has 0.03g per 100g, CASH is keen to stress that lowering salt is possible. Yet many manufacturers are dragging their heels.

Legislation may or may not come, and manufacturers may or may not respond to current calls to keep lowering salt voluntarily. At least by having the FoodSwitch app at your fingertips when shopping, you can take control and reduce levels for yourself and your family here and now.