Lowering UK salt intake by one third could prevent 8,000 premature deaths and save the NHS more than £500 million per year, say Season With Sense campaigners.
It seems old habits die hard when it comes to salt consumption, as 1 in 15 Brits admit to adding salt to their food merely out of habit. And, with more meals being consumed in the home than ever before, more people are now buying salt compared to last year and are buying more than one type of salt.
In a bid to turn this situation around, Season With Sense, a new public awareness campaign, is underway to urge Brits to make better salt choices.
The campaign’s launch follows on from a nationwide survey that shows little improvement in lowering salt intake over the past decade, despite governmental efforts. Even with the heightened importance of eating a healthy diet during the pandemic, there have been only marginal changes to salt consumption over the past 12 months.
Curbing salt intake has never been more important than against the background of Covid-19. Salt is the main source of sodium in our diets but eating too much of it is strongly linked to the development of high blood pressure (hypertension), which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
However, in spite of the advice to decrease salt intake, it seems the message is still not getting through. Ninety-seven percent of people now have salt in their home and over half of Brits (57%) have more than one type of salt in their store cupboard, compared to less than half (49%) in 2020.
While the number of families who add salt to their food automatically has decreased slightly (from 62% in 2020 to 56% in 2021), the number of people who would carry on using salt regardless of its impact on their health has increased from a quarter in 2020 (25.8%) to almost a third (29.6%) in 2021.
According to the research, it would take something as drastic as an illness requiring a change of diet for people to lower their salt intake. Over four in 10 (41%) cite this as the motivation, followed by advice from a doctor, although less people would be persuaded by a doctor now (36.3%) compared to a year ago (39.8%).
The number of people who would listen to friends and family on the issue has increased, making the Season With Sense campaign particularly salient as salt users are willing to follow advice from their nearest and dearest while cooking and eating at home.
In the year that eating in has become the new eating out, albeit reluctantly, there has never been a better time for people to learn to Season With Sense. Eight out of ten Brits (78%) add salt when cooking but, on the good news front, the number of people who always add salt when cooking has decreased from 31% in 2020 to 27.3% in 2021.
In addition, more people are following the recipe and using a measured amount of salt, rather than ad-libbing (19.5% in 2021 compared with 15.8%).
Nearly half of people (47.7%) are still adding a pinch of salt to their cooking, although this has decreased in 2020 (49.8%). Unfortunately, the number who never add it has also decreased from 23.5% last year to 22.1% this year.
Salt is still very much a tabletop item but there have been some positive changes here. The number of people who have it on the table has decreased from three quarters in 2020 (74.8%) to seven in ten (70%) in 2021.
Over half of people (53.7%) say it is the dish itself that influences whether or not they put salt on the table, followed by who was at the table (22.8%) and the meal occasion (22.3%).
Although salt grinders are still the most common way to serve salt (51%), salt cellars are enjoying a significant renaissance, rising in popularity from 25.9% in 2020 to 33.1% in 2021.
When asked why they added salt to food, the vast majority (78.7%) did so for taste but 6.5% admitted that it had simply become a habit and this figure has increased since last year (5.1%).
Worryingly, although over a third (33.9%) of people recognised that, as a nation, we eat too much salt, a similar number (35.5%) were not concerned about the amount of salt they eat.
Nearly half (47.3%) of people have no idea what the recommended maximum salt intake is per day and less than 1 in 10 people cited the correct answer of 6g. More positively, 41.4% of people would be happy to buy a reduced salt option.
Well known TV doctor and LoSalt advisor Dr Sarah Jarvis said: “The fact that it would take an illness to force a change of diet is a clear indication of the lack of awareness of the impact that too much salt can have on our health and the resulting cost to the NHS.
In fact, if salt intake fell by a third it would prevent 8,000 premature deaths in the UK and could save the NHS over £500 million annually. Salt raises blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Eating a healthy diet is always important but is especially vital at the moment with Covid 19 challenging our immune systems.
“The new Season with Sense campaign aims to educate people on their salt habits and encourage them to take control of their health by looking for lower salt food options and ‘seasoning with sense’ both in and out of the home.”
Season With Sense launched in February with the introduction of an online hub where consumers can access expert advice and low-sodium recipes.
It’s supported by LoSalt, the UK’s leading reduced sodium salt which has 66% less sodium than standard table, sea or rock salt.