LONDON (Reuters) - The British government said on Sunday it would set up a major task force to tackle poor salt consumption in Britain, a welcome move with tens of thousands of Britains dying from salt-related diseases every year.
FILE PHOTO: Jodie Foster (L) and Geraldine James in a scene from "Salt," directed by Philip Noyce. REUTERS/Handout/Focus Features
Salt, which scientists say is vital for absorbing calcium, also wreaks havoc with heart health, especially among those with a high salt intake.
British ministers plan to require retailers to list the salt content of their products in the shops and improve public awareness of salt use. Some 75,000 people a year die from a combination of high blood pressure and heart disease, according to the government.
Some critics say the government’s lack of progress on salt levels shows why it should cut its spending on a huge range of health projects, from immunisation to support for elderly and disabled people.
On Sunday, Britain’s cabinet office minister, David Lidington, said the task force would be led by top retail executive Fiona Reynolds and will include other health experts.
The minister said the task force would focus on encouraging new approaches to reducing salt by co-designing and co-funding research.
The government said it already had a range of policies in place to tackle salt, including the National Salt Reduction Scheme, which aims to reduce salt levels in the food supply by 20 percent by 2022, and free calorie labelling in supermarkets.
“There are lots of ways in which we can improve our diets - not least by cutting salt from what we eat,” Lidington said.
But some think the policies do not go far enough.
“All this announces is a national salt strategy without a clear plan for diet or the implication that we will review or revise the National Salt Reduction Scheme by 2022,” said Joe Glenton, a Conservative member of parliament.
Glenton is campaigning for greater food transparency and nutritional quality, including the mandatory labelling of salt in Britain’s 500,000 supermarket items.
Britain has some of the highest rates of obesity and high blood pressure in the world.
Spending by the government on healthcare has risen by more than a third over the past decade, but officials say the rate of healthcare inflation has slowed over the past two years.