Intended for healthcare professionals


The food industry fights for salt

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 18 May 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1239
  1. Fiona Godlee
  1. Assistant editor, BMJ London WC1H 9JR

    But delaying salt reductions has public health and commercial costs

    Like any group with vested interests, the food industry resists regulation. Faced with a growing scientific consensus that salt increases blood pressure1 2 and the fact that most dietary salt (65-85%) comes from processed foods,3 some of the world's major food manufacturers have adopted desperate measures to try to stop governments from recommending salt reduction. Rather than reformulate their products, manufacturers have lobbied governments, refused to cooperate with expert working parties, encouraged misinformation campaigns, and tried to discredit the evidence. This week's BMJ finds them defending their interests as vigorously as ever.

    In 1988 the BMJ published data from the Intersalt study suggesting that populations with high average intakes of salt were likely to have higher average systolic blood pressures and that salt intake predicted rise in blood pressure with age.4 The salt producers' international trade organisation, the Salt Institute, criticised the study, particularly the methods used to relate blood pressure to age, and asked the investigators to hand over their raw data for reanalysis. The investigators instead performed the reanalyses themselves: these appear on p 1249,5 confirming the previous findings. The Salt Institute sent the BMJ a letter in response to the reanalysis, and this appears on p 1283,6 along with a commentary from an independent expert (p1284)7 and an answer from the Intersalt investigators (p1285).8

    The Salt Institute's letter is the latest volley in a 20 year …

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