LONDON — The U.K. Food Standards Agency on Oct. 5 launched an advertising campaign urging people to pay closer attention to salt levels. The campaign, which features foods that contribute to salt intake among U.K. adults and children, encourages people to reduce their salt intake by checking labels on foods and choosing those that are lower in salt.
"Salt intakes are coming down, but if we are to get closer to meeting our target of reducing intakes to a maximum of 6 grams a day for adults, and lower levels for children, people need to become more aware of the foods that contribute the most, as it isn’t just obvious things we need to watch out for as far as salt is concerned," said Rosemary Hignett, head of nutrition for the F.S.A. "We’re not suggesting people stop eating these foods. In fact, we encourage people to eat bread and breakfast cereals, as they are an important part of a healthy diet. But we are saying take a look at the labels to find those that are lower in salt. This could be a supermarket own-label product, and maybe one from the ‘value’ range. If so, any cost saving is an added bonus.
"We’ve been working closely with food manufacturers and retailers to encourage them to use less salt in their foods, and are pleased with the progress that is being made. But there is still a wide variation of salt levels in different brands, which is why it is so important that people check the labels."
In advance of the campaign launch, the F.S.A. released findings from a survey showing consumer confusion about salt. While 37% of the respondents said they were either "very concerned" or "quite concerned" about the amount of salt they consume, the majority were unable to identify the top three contributors of salt intake from a list of 10 foods. In addition, 40% of those surveyed said supermarket "value" brands are higher in salt than name brands, which is not necessarily the case, according to the F.S.A. survey.
"Sometimes the cheapest are amongst the lowest in salt," the F.S.A. noted. "In addition, supermarket own-label versions of some foods, including bread, are often lower in salt than the branded versions."
Another finding from the study found 85% of people stick to the same brands of foods they buy regularly, but 26% of these people said they would change brands if they knew a lower salt option was available.