Mandatory salt reduction could save more in healthcare costs: Study

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mandatory reformulation could lead to a 20% reduction in per capita salt consumption
Mandatory reformulation could lead to a 20% reduction in per capita salt consumption

Related tags: Coronary heart disease, Heart disease, Heart, Health care

Mandatory salt reduction may save more in healthcare costs than the current voluntary system, say the authors of a study published in Value in Health.

The team of UK researchers examined four different approaches to salt reduction in the UK, and assessed their relative effectiveness based on a review of the scientific literature. The four approaches were: The Change4Life health promotion campaign; front-of-pack labelling of salt content; the Food Standards Agency (FSA) working with the food industry on a voluntary basis; and mandatory reformulation to reduce salt in processed foods.

“Each policy appeared cost saving, with mandatory reformulation offering the largest cost saving, more than £660 million,”​ the study’s authors wrote.

The cost assessment included costs to both the private sector in reformulation and labelling, and to the public sector in introducing the policy. Total cost savings were based on estimates of lowered blood pressure associated with lower salt intakes, and resulting lower risk of heart disease.

Based on the average UK daily salt intake of 8.1 g per day in 2011 and best estimates from previous studies, the researchers estimated that public education efforts, like the Change4Life campaign or labelling, would reduce salt consumption by about 2%, to about 7.94 g per day. The current system of voluntary reformulation would cut intakes by about 15%, to 6.89 g per day, while mandatory reformulation would lead to a 20% reduction, to an estimated 6.48 g per day.

The UK’s Department of Health recommends that people should consume no more than 6 g of salt each day, while the World Health Organisation has set a lower limit, of 5 g a day.

About 35% of deaths in the UK are caused by cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke, at an estimated cost of about £30bn (€37.7bn) a year to the UK economy.

“Implementing legislation to reduce dietary salt in processed foods offers a valid way to substantially decrease spending on health care for CHD [coronary heart disease],”​ the researchers wrote. “Furthermore, the continuing work in progress between the FSA and the food industry could also result in further savings on health care expenditure in the future.”

They noted that programmes like Change4Life and labelling were still cost-saving compared to doing nothing, even though they were likely to result in smaller reductions in salt consumption.


Source: Value in Health

Vol. 17(2014), pp. 517-524

An Economic Evaluation of Salt Reduction Policies to Reduce Coronary Heart Disease in England: A Policy Modeling Study”

Authors: Marissa Collins, Helen Mason, Martin O’Flaherty, Maria Guzman-Castillo, Julia Critchley, and Simon Capewell.

Related topics: R&D, Sodium reduction

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salt benefits

Posted by stuart Lee,

there is a great deal of negative press about salt, what never disclosed is that in the baking industry salt is a processing aid, and there are numerous benefits that salt brings to the food industry.

The consumer takes a real life decision each and every day by adding salt to food at the table, processed and manufactured foods are designed and made with strict nutritional guidelines and labelling, so how can the industry be responsible and take the brunt of the negative press?

common sense has to be applied and brought to the table as does the salt and pepper.

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controlling the salt shaker

Posted by Susan,

While reducing sodium in processed foods is an initiative for many companies, folks making those foods at home still control their salt shakers.

Calling out "lower sodium" sometimes has a backlash effect at the dinner table. Anecdotal information suggests that many will shake more salt on at the table when the item is labeled as "lower sodium". I watched my dad blatantly shake on more salt when his physician advised "less salt" in his diet. My mother cooked with less but my dad still controlled the salt shaker at the table.

It's a complex issue and psychology needs to be taken into account. Likely, this is why many food companies are not calling out the reductions they are making in sodium content because some folks will reject the products.

Have studies looked at consumer behavior when presented with clearly labeled lower sodium items versus items that were not labeled as "lower sodium" but were at the same level?

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