Research led by Imperial College London and the University of Liverpool suggests the introduction of voluntary restrictions on the salt content of foods may have led to approximately 9900 additional cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 1500 additional cases of gastric cancer (GCa) between 2011 and 2018.
During 2003-2010, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) closely monitored salt content and agreed on targets for salt reduction with industry, with the threat of future statutory regulations if targets were not met. However, in 2011, England introduced the Public Health Responsibility Deal (RD), a public-private partnership which gave greater freedom to the food industry to set and monitor salt targets itself.
In a new study published in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2000, 2001) and national sodium intake surveys taken from the Health Survey for England for the years 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2014 were analysed.
It showed that between 2003 and 2010, mean salt intake was falling annually by 0.20 grams/day among men and 0.12 grams/day among women. After 2011, annual declines slowed significantly to 0.11 grams/day among men and 0.07 grams/day among women.
Using mathematical modelling, the research team estimated that the RD has been responsible for approximately 9900 (interquartile quartile range [IQR], 6700-13,000) additional cases of CVD and 1500 (IQR, 510-2300) additional cases of GCa between 2011 and 2018.
If the RD continues unchanged, between 2019 and 2025, approximately 26,000 (IQR, 20,000-31,000) additional cases of CVD and 3800 (IQR, 2200-5300) cases of GCa could occur, they say.