UK: Food: Sid says slim salt (COMMENT)
Supermarkets are to resist government efforts to cut salt content in foods. As the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) launches a TV campaign to reduce high salt consumption in the UK, leading British supermarkets continue to defy government attempts to cut salt content in their products. The stance is a risky one given the potential for adverse publicity and consumers' broader nutritional concerns stemming from the health and wellness trend.
The FSA has launched a TV campaign aimed at consumers to try to reduce high salt consumption in the UK. At least 26 million people a day consume more than the recommended 6g daily limit of salt, according to the agency. The initiative, featuring a character named Sid the slug, is designed to raise awareness of the link between diets loaded with salt and high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes.
The salt content debate has escalated in recent months. In June, health minister Melanie Johnson issued a 'final chance' warning to more than 20 companies that if they fail to come up with improved proposals by September, the government will likely introduce compulsory warnings on high salt products.
However, according to the Scotsman newspaper, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Asda and a number of other stores are in open conflict with ministers after refusing a direct request to improve their plans to cut back on salt. Instead, they are continuing to work on the less rigorous strategies they formed at the start of the year.
Meanwhile, the FSA's television ad campaign and general lobbying activities have been met with mixed support from other external groups. While The Consumers Association and British Heart Foundation have both welcomed the campaign, the Salt Manufacturers' Association attacked it claiming the FSA has used "disputed and questionable evidence".
However, the most significant group in this escalating debate are consumers. People now have increasingly broad concerns with the nutrition and health effects of the foods they eat; evidence increasingly shows that salt concerns are beginning to equal worries over fat, sugar and carb content.
These concerns are especially relevant for those products targeted at children and their health conscious parents. Therefore, by apparently refusing to adhere to the government's guidelines, the supermarkets risk attracting a barrage of negative publicity: it is a highly risky approach for the UK's retail giants to adopt.
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