Back in 2011 a voluntary self- regulating pact, called the Public Health Responsibility Deal, was made between the government and the food industry. The pact saw to curb the salt content of food however new research shows that it's fallen short in it's goals, in fact, it has slowed down the rate of reduction of salt in food. As a result we now have an increase in cases of cardiovascular disease, stomach cancer and strokes.
Mandatory approaches are much more effective
Dr Anthony Laverty, lead author of the research from Imperial's School of Public Health, said:
"Evidence from around the world is now showing that mandatory approaches are much more effective than self-regulation by industry in reducing the amount of salt and sugar in our diet."
In his report Dr Laverty brought attention to the Public Health Responsibility Deal's lack of strong independent target setting, monitoring and enforcement as factors in the extra 9900 cases of heart disease and 1500 cases of stomach cancer that has been seen since the pact was made.
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University London, said:
"We've long known that the Public Health Responsibility Deal was a tragedy for public health."
"Independent evaluations highlighted its lack of effectiveness and this research markedly brings home the effect the deal had on the UK's once world-leading salt reduction programme."
"The slowing in the reduction of salt intake led to many thousands of entirely preventable occurrences of cardiovascular disease and stomach cancer, particularly those from more deprived backgrounds."
"The Secretary of State for Health promised new salt reduction plans in his delayed prevention green paper and this paper reiterates the overwhelming need for a revived salt reduction strategy in the UK."
While a number of experts have agreed that the study casts doubt on the effectiveness of the Public Health Responsibility deal it's important to add that research limitations have been highlighted. This includes the fact that there were lack of repeated measures of salt intake in the same individuals, there were comparatively small sample sizes and there was also an assumption made that salt intake was set to decline along the same trajectory as it had over the period from 2003 until 2010.
UK currently has no salt reduction strategy in place
Further to this latest report the UK currently has no salt reduction strategy in place, the last set expired in 2017. This is in contrast to other European countries that have mandatory targets for certain foods including Belgium for bread, Bulgaria for bread, milk and meat products, Greece for bread and tomato products and both the Netherlands and Portugal for bread. Portugal and Hungary also tax high salt foods.