In the United Kingdom, following the relaxation of salt-content regulations in manufactured foods in 2011, researchers observed an increase of 9,900 cases of cardiovascular disease and 1,500 stomach cancers.
For years, the governments of many Western countries have been fighting the salt war. Because its excess consumption is officially recognized as a risk factor for high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and stomach cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.5 million deaths could be prevented each year if adults all reduce their salt intake to less than 5 grams per day. But on an individual scale, it is clear that we do not control what we really eat. Indeed, the salt that we add ourselves in our diet counts for only 1/5thof our daily contributions. The rest comes from the manufactured food. It is therefore the excessive amount of salt added in ultra-processed foods to give them more flavor and increase their life that represents a risk.
In France, if the health authorities set targets for reducing salt consumption, no legislation is binding on manufacturers. In the United Kingdom, where the country had previously taken very stringent measures on the subject, since 2011 and the relaxation of the regulations on maximum salt content in foods sold in supermarkets, researchers have observed a significant increase in cardiovascular diseases and cancers of the stomach. The results of this study appeared Thursday, July 18 in the journal Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Researchers from the Imperial College of London and the University of Liverpool have used data from the National Food and Nutrition Survey and National Salt Surveys to analyze trends in daily consumption of the English population over 13 years. The goal is to compare the health effects of changes in salt legislation in the agri-food industry.
Two out of three Britons consume too much salt
Between 2003 and 2010, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) closely monitored the salt content of foods and had reduction target agreements with industry (-10 to 20% in 85% categories). These regulations were accompanied by public health campaigns explaining how to reduce salt intake. At the same time, the government regularly threatened to take stricter measures, explain the researchers.
However, in 2011, this policy was replaced by the Public Health Responsibility Deal. From there, manufacturers set their own targets as part of voluntary commitments and were asked to report their progress to the Ministry of Health. But this new system has lacked follow-up and solid measures, says Dr. Anthony Laverty, lead author of the study. Also, since 2011, the annual reduction in salt consumption has slowed down to 0.11 g per day for men and 0.07 g per day for women.
Today, if the British public authorities advise adults not to eat more than 6 g (the equivalent of a teaspoon) of salt a day, the latter consume on average 8 g daily. Thus, two out of three people consume too much salt.
This policy change would have generated a loss of 160 million pounds
Since 2011, researchers have discovered an increase of 9,900 cases of cardiovascular disease and 1,500 stomach cancers. And these could be due to policy changes, they warn. In addition, health costs related to increased stroke, heart attacks and cancers, as well as lost productivity due to absenteeism, would have lost 160 million pounds in the UK (the equivalent of 178 million 'euros) between 2011 and 2017.
If no action is taken quickly, there will be even more heart attacks, strokes and cancer cases that are easily preventable, the researchers warn. According to their calculations, at this rate, 26,000 new cardiovascular diseases and 3,800 cases of stomach cancer should be diagnosed between 2019 and 2025. That is a cost of 960 million pounds for the British economy.
"There is evidence around the world that mandatory approaches are much more effective than the self-regulation of industry to reduce salt and sugar levels in food," Laverty insists. "The FSA's approach was one of the strongest strategies in the world, and our research shows that we now need an equally serious program to accelerate the decline in salt consumption. objectives and penalties to ensure that the agri-food industry reduces salt levels well in its food.Measures more flexible could lead to heart attacks, stroke and cancer cases, "adds Professor Martin O ' Flaherty, co-author of the study.
Delicatessen, cooked dishes, sauces and condiments to avoid
In France, 35,000 deaths are attributable to salt each year. While current consumption is around 10 grams for men and 7 grams for women, the National Health Nutrition Program aims to reduce salt intake to less than 8g / day for men and 6.5g / day for women and the children.
According to the National Agency for Food Safety, Environment and Labor (ANSES), the foods that bring the most salt daily are: "bread and rusks, cold cuts (especially dry sausages and ham), broths (vegetables or meats), salted snacks, instant noodles, sauces and condiments, cod and anchovies, cooked dishes, cheeses, soups and soups, as quiches and pizzas ".
"In view of the insufficient impact of the voluntary salt reduction measures on the salt intake of the population, the Agency has recommended the implementation of complementary actions, if necessary regulatory, in order to increase both the number of products concerned and the level of reduction in salt content of processed foods, "notes ANSES. In the meantime, Nutri-score nutritional labeling, perhaps soon mandatory on all products, provides consumers with useful information on their salt content and overall quality.