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New research reveals significant reductions of salt levels in UK bread

Salt levels in UK bread have fallen by an average of 20 per cent over the last 10 years, according to new research from Queen Mary, University of London.

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The surveys, conducted by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), based at Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, looked at salt reductions made over time in packaged bread sold in the UK.

Around 75 per cent of the salt consumed in the UK and other developed countries come from processed foods, with bread the biggest single contributor. CASH says the results show that bakers have gradually reduced the levels of salt in their products, and should be congratulated, with approximately 2,400 strokes and heart attack events prevented each year, but they say further reductions can be made.

Katharine Jenner, Campaign Director for CASH, said: "These results provide evidence that the UK salt reduction strategy, based on a series of salt targets for different food groups, has been working.”

However a wide variation in salt levels was found, with many products now below the Department of Health 2012 targets, indicating that further reductions can be made. The results showed that in 2011, just under 90 per cent of supermarkets had met or were below the 2012 targets, compared to under 50 per cent of branded products. The Department of Health is currently in the process of setting new targets for all of the products that are major contributors of salt in the diet, including bread.

Professor Graham MacGregor, CASH Chairman and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary, said: “A reduction in population salt intake is one of the most cost-effective measures to improve public health, as lowering salt intake lowers blood pressure and reduces the number of people suffering and dying from stokes heart attacks and heart failure.”

“Bread is the single biggest contributor of salt to the UK diet and it is vital that we set challenging targets for the bread industry in order to save the maximum number of lives”.

The researchers say that reducing the average salt content of bread by a further 10 per cent to 0.9g/100g (a figure which 27 per cent of products already met in 2011) could make a further reduction in population salt intake of 0.11g/person/day, resulting in around 1,200 fewer heart attacks and strokes every year.

By reducing the salt content further still to 0.8g/100g (a figure which 11 per cent already met) the reductions to population salt intake would be approximately 0.22g/person/day, resulting in around 2,400 fewer heart attacks and strokes every year. This is just from a reduction in the salt content of bread to levels that are already available in the supermarket own brands.

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