Restaurants are under increasing pressure to reduce levels of salt in food. Here's how to do it
It is a widely acknowledged fact that much of the UK's population eats too much salt. Government guidelines recommend no more than 6g a day for adults, with less for children, depending on their age. Its target is to ensure people consume 6g or less by 2010. The average person in the UK currently eats 9g.
The health benefits of cutting back on salt are well documented. Salt increases blood pressure and with it the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Recent research from the British Medical Journal showed that cutting back from 10g to 7g a day reduced the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 25 per cent over 10-15 years and the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease went down by 20 per cent.
As three quarters of the salt we consume comes through prepared foods, much of the focus on, and responsibility for, cutting back has been levied at the food retail industry.
However, the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) says restaurants should put less salt in food particularly because of the increase in the amount of food being consumed outside the home.
Joanne Butten, nutritionist for CASH, said, "It's one of those areas where people don't have any control over what they're eating. People often go to a restaurant as a treat so aren't worried about what they're eating. Although they might want some decadence, that shouldn't have to mean eating a lot of salt."
She also believes, eventually, that adding a lot of salt to restaurant meals could be bad for business.
"If people are trying to reduce their salt intake and get used to it (which takes a couple of weeks), there's a chance you'll turn people off with salty food". Butten has the following advice for restaurateurs:
- Try to make as much from scratch as possible so that you're aware how much salt is in the food.
- If you have to buy in products such as condiments, ask how much salt is in them so you can inform your customers and ask suppliers to consider reducing the salt content.
- Be aware how much salt is acceptable – a teaspoon per day is about 6g. Bearing in mind that most people eat three meals a day, you shouldn't put more than a third of a teaspoon in a single meal.
- Automatically use salt for flavour. Sharp citrus flavours, strong herbs and pepper can be used instead.
- Forget that once salt is added it can't be taken out.
- Consider allowing customers to add their own salt at the table.