End of salt reduction drive led to 24,000 premature deaths in England study
Thousands of people have died avoidably after the government stopped telling the food industry to cut how much salt it puts into its products, research has found.
Salt is a significant cause of high blood pressure, which leads to tens of thousand of people a year suffering or dying from a heart attack or stroke.
The average amount of salt that people in England consumed fell by almost 20% after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) initiated a programme in 2006 in which food manufacturers reduced the salt content of scores of different types of processed and prepared foods.
The coalition government abandoned that interventionist approach in 2011. Its public health responsibility deal instead let food producers once again set their own salt levels. The deal was heavily criticised by public health experts for relying on voluntary efforts by firms to create healthier products rather than the FSAs tougher regulatory tactics.
After the change average intake rose again, from 7.58g a day in 2014 to 8.39g a day in 2018, according to the study, which has been published in the Journal of Hypertension. It has stalled since, the authors found from their analysis of published health figures. Experts recommend that people should consume no more than 6g a day to maintain good health.