The UK’s Food Standards Agency has issued salt intake targets for children based on a new report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).
The FSA says the recommendations for target levels of salt intake are important because high salt intake is linked to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease. People with high blood pressure are three times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, and twice as likely to die from these diseases than people with normal levels. High blood pressure contributes to more than 170,000 deaths per year in England alone.
The SACN report confirms previous advice that reducing current salt consumption by one-third, from around 9 grams/day to 6g/day, would have significant public health benefits by reducing average population blood pressure levels. This would mean a reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease for the UK population as a whole.
For the first time, recommendations for target levels of salt intake have been set for children according to age.
Target intake grams/day
Estimated intake – male
Estimated intake – female
Less than 1
Breast milk will provide all the sodium necessary
The FSA says that these salt intakes are almost certainly underestimates of the actual amounts consumed. The current salt intake of children is relatively higher than that of adults in relation to their bodyweight.
Parents are advised to cut down on levels of salt they use, including salt added during cooking and at the table. Approximately 75% of salt is from processed food, so it is also important for parents to check the salt content on food labels when buying for their children.
The FSA and UK Health Departments have been in discussion with the food industry to try and ensure that incremental targets are set for reductions in levels of salt in all processed foods.
Proposals on salt reduction from the Food and Drink Federation are a welcome start, and the baking industry has made some reductions in the salt content of bread.
However, the FSA called for more action in other sectors and said it will be holding meetings with stakeholders to discuss salt reduction initiatives.
Sir John Krebs, chair of the Food Standards Agency, said: “There are important health benefits from reducing salt intake, and we have today set new guidelines for children’s salt intake on the basis of the best scientific evidence.
“While consumers can add less salt at the table and in cooking, they cannot change the amounts of salt in processed foods, which make up, by far, the highest proportion of our salt intake.
“This is the responsibility of the food industry. We are urging all food manufacturers and retailers to set targets for reductions in levels of salt in all processed foods. The Food and Drink Federation’s proposals are a welcome start – we would like other sectors to follow.”
The Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, announced an industry-wide programme aimed at reducing salt content in breakfast cereals, soups and sauces.
“UK bread manufacturers have reduced salt across the product range by 13% since 1998. This includes reductions confirmed in a recent FSA survey of breads. Our manufacturers have now agreed with the FSA how to measure the significant salt reductions already achieved, as well as those planned, in breakfast cereals and soups and sauces. These sectors have been identified by FSA as contributing significantly to salt intake,” FDF director general Sylvia Jay said.