Ban trans fats and cut salt, demands UK health body

Mon Jun 21, 2010 7:15pm EDT
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's influential health cost watchdog called on Tuesday for major changes in food production and marketing and said drastic cuts in fat and salt levels were needed to halt the scourge of heart disease.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said trans fats, which do little more than prolong shelf life, should be banned from all food, saturated fat levels cut drastically and average salt intake more than halved by 2025.

If these changes were implemented, around 40,000 early deaths could be prevented each year in Britain alone and millions of people could spared the suffering of living with the effects of heart disease and stroke, NICE said.

Mike Kelly, NICE's director for public health, said the financial costs of heart disease added up to around 30 billion pounds ($44.5 billion) a year in Britain, taking in treatment costs, lost productivity, care and other social costs.

"This is a big ticket item. And it is something that is eminently within our power to do something about," he told a briefing. "This isn't some mystery virus which we don't understand ... this is something where we know precisely what the causes are and we know precisely what we can do about it."

NICE does not produce legislation but it is asked by the government to draw up health policy guidelines.

NICE said policymakers should aim to reduce average adult salt intake in Britain to 3 grams a day by 2025 from around 8.5 grams now and introduce laws on cuts if necessary.

Politicians were also urged to negotiate at European Union and national level to ensure agricultural policy took account of public health issues.   Continued...