Cut children's salt intake says watchdog

The Food Standards Agency has today issued salt intake targets for children for the first time. The advice is based on a new report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).

Recommendations are made on the maximum levels of salt that should be consumed each day by children, according to their age. The new advice recommends: for children aged 0-6 months, the aim should be less than 1 gram/day;7-12 months, 1 gram/day; 1-3 years, 2 grams/day; 4-6 years, 3 grams/day; 7-10 years, 5 grams/day; 11-14 years, 6 grams/day.

The levels of current average intake for children of four and above are almost certainly higher than these targets. Children's salt consumption is relatively higher than that of adults for their weight.

The SACN report also confirms previous advice that reducing current salt consumption by one-third for adults, from around 9 grams/day to 6 grams/day, would have significant public health benefits by reducing average population blood pressure levels. This would mean a reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease for the UK population as a whole.

Parents are being advised to cut the levels of salt they use, including salt added during cooking and at the table. About three-quarters of the salt we eat is from processed food, so it is important for parents to check the salt content on food labels when buying for their children.

Sir John Krebs, Chair of the Food Standards Agency, said: 'There are important health benefits from reducing salt intake, and we have today set new guidelines for children's salt intake on the basis of the best scientific evidence. While consumers can add less salt at the table and in cooking, they cannot change the amounts of salt in processed foods, which make up, by far, the highest proportion of our salt intake.

'This is the responsibility of the food industry. We are urging all food manufacturers and retailers to set targets for reductions in levels of salt in all processed foods.'

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