The president of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) has rejected US proposals for a mandatory reduction in salt levels in processed foods on the grounds that they are not based on scientific evidence.
Marianne Gillette, who is also vice president of technical competencies and platforms at McCormick, was responding to recommendations by the US Institute of Medicine (IoM) that the US government should set mandatory national requirements for manufacturers to cut salt in processed foods.
The IoM reported that US intakes were on average 8.5g/day against US recommendations for a maximum of 5.75g/day.
Gillette made her comments as lobby group Consensus Action on Salt & Health revealed the results of a new UK survey showing very high levels of salt in many retail and takeaway curries – Britain’s favourite dish. Some of these, together with accompaniments, contained more than 20g of salt in a single serving.
Giving the 2010 Binsted Lecture this week, organised by the British section of the IFT in conjunction with the Institute of Food Science and Technology at the Society of Chemical Industry, Gillette argued against doing in the US “the same silly thing as you did here”.
She was referring to the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) campaign to achieve lower salt consumption in the UK.
Gillette said: “I don’t believe the science is there [on salt] and we should be putting the arguments for something that really is a problem, like obesity.”
Salt and hypertension
Despite widespread agreement by many health experts that people are consuming too much salt – including the World Health Organisation, which recommends an intake of less than 5g/day of salt, and the FSA, which suggests an intake of less than 6g/day for adults – there are a number of scientists that question this advice.
Professor Jeya Henry, co-presenter of the 2010 Binsted Lecture, who is head of food science and nutrition at Oxford Brookes University, questioned the efficacy of lower salt consumption on those that don’t suffer from hypertension.
“If you are not hypertensive, there is little or no effect of the type of food you consume,” said Henry.
However, he recognised why health experts recommended a more widespread reduction in salt consumption: “If you don’t know who is hypertensive, you err on the side of caution.”