The UK Saved Lives By Reducing Salt in Foods. Meanwhile, Here in the States…

Sodium Reduction in the UK

Public health policy works. Here are some hard numbers for you, straight from the United Kingdom:

  • Between 2003 and 2011, the Brits decreased their daily salt intake by 15 percent
  • In that same time, death from heart diseases decreased by a whopping 40 percent
  • Death from stroke decreased by 42 percent

These numbers were published in BMJ Open earlier this week. The British government has been very proactive and aggressive in getting the food industry to reduce the amount of salt in products, and now the UK is reaping the benefits. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Sodium reduction is a big change for a food company. Until a consumer’s taste buds acclimate, the food will likely taste bland and might not be as appealing. This may cause a drop in sales. As a result, no company wants to be the first to reduce sodium, when all its competitors continue to sell a saltier (and tastier) product.

That’s where public health policy comes in. When all British companies were mandated to reduce sodium, it was easier for them to make the change. And now, Brits are healthier as a result.

Meanwhile, here in the US, where the FDA bows to industry pressure and not the other way around, industry-wide sodium reduction initiatives are not on the horizon. Sigh.

Note: As we well remember, correlation is not causation, and there likely are additional lifestyle changes that helped public health improve. The study tracked thousands of individuals over the course of 8 years and in addition to sodium reduction, they smoked less and ate more fruit and vegetables. Physical activity was not tracked in the study. However, based on the data collected, researchers are confident that sodium reduction played an important role in the improvement of heart health.


Salt reduction in England from 2003 to 2011: its relationship to blood pressure, stroke and ischaemic heart disease mortality – He, Pombo-Rodrigues, MacGregor (2014) BMJ Open

  • rubicon bill

    We can do the same thing here by taking charge of what we buy instead of having the government regulate it for us.

    • Fooducate

      Nope. You totally missed the point of public health policy. Think of the analogy to car seatbelts. Sure, we could have buckled up on our own, but only when it became law, death and injury rates fell. Is anyone complaining about that?

      • maddiesmom

        Totally agree. The FED should take out or make sure that salt content in food is dramatically reduced!!

        • maddiesmom

          Sorry meant FDA! !

  • Aussie

    Time for the FDA to stop cowering in the corner and shove and pin companies against the wall with mandates or regulations.

  • JohnL

    Your posts had become refreshingly readable as of late because you had stopped constantly harping on regulation and focused more on education. It was a nice run.

    • Fooducate

      Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately, we’ll need to continue enlightening our readers on the benefits of strong public health policy and dangers of weak regulation when it comes to all consumers, even JohnL.

      • JohnL

        Do you really consider the McGovern committee beneficial? George himself even had an Epiphany late in life regarding over-regulation. Sadly, he never attoned for creating the obesity industry.

        • Fooducate

          There’s a difference between over-regulation and correct regulation. Are seat belt regulations bad?

  • Disgusted

    Of course I’m not surprised this country does not care about people ..only money they don’t eat the crap they sell…go eat salt america…too stupid to avoid these companies salt foods…eat away…