LGA - Restaurant and pub chains urged to sign up to salt reduction targets to combat heart attack and stroke

29 Jul 2014 01:49 PM

Restaurants and pub chains must stop dragging their heels and sign up to salt reduction targets to combat the nation's alarming levels of heart attacks and strokes, councils say.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents almost 400 councils in England and Wales, who last year took over responsibility for public health, points out that only one restaurant group and a single fast-food chain have committed to new Department of Health (DoH) voluntary targets – launched almost five months ago – to slash salt in the 10 most popular high street dishes. These include chips, burgers, chicken portions, battered or breaded fish, pies, curries, beef steaks and grilled chicken, sandwiches, pasta meals and pizzas.

The recommended target from health chiefs is that people consume no more than 6g total salt per day (about a teaspoon). Yet the latest DoH targets suggest a maximum of 6g of salt for just one portion – a traditional Italian-style pizza with cured meat toppings. Some restaurant and pub meals have been found to have even more salt – up to 9g.

The DoH targets were introduced in March as part of the Government's Responsibility Deal – a series of voluntary pledges by industry designed to tackle big health issues like salt and obesity. Too much salt can raise blood pressure which increases the risk of coronary heart disease. A person dies every six minutes from a heart attack in the UK.

Councils across the country are running innovative initiatives to reduce salt, which include setting up projects to work with restaurants, take-aways and fish and chip shops.

Cllr Katie Hall, Chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "The recommended daily target is 6g of salt per person – yet one pub or restaurant meal can take you well over this.

"Excessive salt is a major killer and not enough is being done to tackle it. Despite new targets set by government to bring restaurants in line with the rest of industry, they are lagging a long way behind. We think this is totally unacceptable.

"We need to tackle head-on excessive levels of salt in foods and the big high street restaurants and pubs chains need to get on board and commit swiftly.

"Many supermarkets have signed up to similar salt reduction government targets, which makes the reluctance of the restaurants even more surprising and indefensible.

"Government statistics show thousands of deaths from salt-related health issues like high blood pressure and strokes could be saved, along with hundreds of millions of pounds to the public health purse. This issue needs to be addressed by everyone in the food industry, quickly, comprehensively and – above all – robustly."

Case studies: councils reducing salt intake

Thanks to work by Gateshead Council, take-away shops across the country have started helping people reduce their salt intake. Research carried out by the council in 2005 discovered customers often ate huge quantities of salt with their fish and chips. In fact, sometimes over half their recommended daily allowance was being consumed in a single serving. Work by Environmental Health Officers found many takeaways were using flour shakers instead of salt cellars. Some had as many as 17 holes. So they asked a manufacturer to produce a salt shaker with five holes, which was distributed free of charge to takeaways across the area. The idea has subsequently been adopted across the country. 

The Eatright Liverpool project aims to improve the long term health of people in the city by encouraging food outlets to cut the salt and fat levels in their meals. Liverpool has high levels of ill health related to diet with 36 per cent of the population aged 16 or over being overweight and 18 per cent obese. Research carried out by John Moores University into Chinese and Indian meals – the most popular takeaway meals in the city – found that cutting down on salt and fat could be done without significantly altering the taste. A pilot project, funded by Liverpool Public Health and managed by Trading Standards, has seen seven takeaways and restaurants successfully introduce healthier meals and another 30 are looking to join them. Their "before and after" meals are tested for salt and fat content and those who have made significant reductions receive certificates.

Food businesses from restaurants and takeaways to pubs and cafes are being encouraged to promote healthier eating by becoming members of a new scheme called Heart of Derbyshire. Derbyshire County Council is developing our Heart of Derbyshire scheme which will officially launch to the public in September. The scheme will have a number of elements, all focusing on improving the health of people across Derbyshire through healthier food choices. 


Details of the new Responsibility Deal salt targets for restaurants and pubs

Partners currently committed to this pledge (6):

Pret A Manger, JD Wetherspoon have signed up to 2017 salt targets and an accompanying pledge while Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Strada have signed up to this pledge too. A number of contract catering companies have signed up to a range of salt pledges.

Twenty-six businesses are signed up to take action on salt reduction under the three parts of the F5 Salt Catering pledge – this includes KFC, McDonalds and Domino's.

Suggested DoH targets

10.3 Traditional Italian style pizza with cured meat toppings (per pizza)
Includes all-style pizza, calzone and stromboli with cured meat e.g. ham, pepperoni etc
6g salt or 2,400mg sodium Traditional Italian style pizza is defined as any pizza that is based on the tradition Neapolitan or Lazio (Roman) style.  Generally these have a thin base, thin layer of topping, are below 12" in size, served unsliced and eaten by one person.

10.4 Traditional Italian style pizza with all other toppings (per pizza)
Includes all Italian style pizza, calzone and stromboli without cured meat e.g. Chicken, beef, fish, margherita etc.

5g salt or 2,000mg sodium  

Responsibility deal launched in March

New research on salt hidden in restaurant meals

Five of the top saltiest main meals [portion size stated where known]:

  1. JD Wetherspoons' [10oz gammon with eggs, chips, peas, tomato & flat mushroom] = 8.9g salt per portion
  2. Jamie's Italian [game meatball] = 8.1g salt per 570g portion
  3. Carluccio's [spaghetti alle vongole in bianco] = 8.0g
  4. Gordon Ramsay's The Savoy Grill's [steamed mussels cider cream sauce and fries] = 7.3g salt per 510g portion
  5. Wagamama's Yaki Udon = 7.0g salt per 620g portion.

See more at: http://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/news/surveys/2013/Chef%20Survey/92404.html

Salt: suggested daily intake of 6gs per day


Salt hidden in processed food

Around three-quarters of the salt we eat has been added to our food before we buy it.

Reducing salt intake

Reducing salt intake lowers blood pressure in just four weeks, which in turn diminishes the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Reducing population salt intakes by just 1g will prevent 4,147 deaths and save the NHS £288 million every year.

The salt reduction programme has so far reduced salt intakes by 15 per cent (from 9.5g in 2001 to 8.1g in 2011).

Salt attack facts

Every six minutes someone dies from a heart attack

CHD is responsible for around 74,000 deaths in the UK each year

About 1 in 5 men and 1 in 8 women die from CHD. In the UK, there are an estimated 2.7 million people living with the condition and two million people affected by angina (the most common symptom of coronary heart disease). Every six minutes someone dies from a heart attack.


Ruth Pott-Negrine, Senior Media Relations Officer
Local Government Association
Telephone: 020 7664 3351
Mobile: 07979 803158
Media Office (for out-of-hours contact): 020 7664 3333
Email: ruth.pott-negrine@local.gov.uk
Local Government House, Smith Square, London SW1P 3HZ