PRIMARY school pupils are to be made aware of the dangers of consuming too much salt via an awareness-raising campaign next week.
The School Meals Service is taking advantage of Salt Awareness Week (February 1-7) to display literature in schools on health lifestyle choices – an initiative sponsored by Robinson’s Fresh Foods.
Salt Awareness Week is organised annually by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) to make the public more aware about the dangers of consuming too much salt in the diet.
‘Cash aims to educate the public in becoming more salt aware in terms of understanding the impact of salt on their health, checking labels when shopping and avoiding products with high levels of salt,’ explained Schools Catering Manager Chris Wilson. ‘Children and the elderly are highlighted as particularly vulnerable groups whose health is more at risk from high salt intake.’
There is strong evidence linking high salt intake to high blood pressure, says Cash. High blood pressure is the main cause of strokes and a major cause of heart attacks, two of the most common causes of death and illness. It is also widely recognised that a high salt diet has other adverse effects, such as osteoporosis, cancer of the stomach, obesity and exacerbating the symptoms of asthma.
A high salt diet in children can lead to them developing risk factors (such as obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure) that can lead to heart disease and strokes in later adult life.
There is evidence that dietary habits in childhood and adolescence also influence eating patterns in later life. The liking for salt and salty foods is a learned taste preference and the recommendation that the adult population reduces its sodium intake will be more successful if children do not develop it in the first place.
Research has also shown that those who consume 10g of salt a day drink 350mls more fluids per day than those on the recommended lower salt intake of 5g per day. As a large quantity of children’s fluid intake comes in the form of soft drinks, this increased consumption has an influence on the rising incidence of obesity and on tooth decay.
It is thought salt intake in many children from the age of four upwards is the same as in adults, ie, 9-10g a day. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has set target levels of salt intake for children.
These recommendations are not ideal and are far higher than what a child's maximum intake should be to meet their physiological requirements but, due to children's current high salt intake, are based on what is feasible and achievable, says Cash.
|Age||Salt intake recommended|
|0-6months||less than 1g/day|
Mr Wilson added:
‘It is much appreciated and appropriate that Robinson’s Fresh Foods should sponsor the initiative to have display holders within primary schools that will contain information on healthy lifestyle choices, as fresh fruit and vegetables are so important in achieving a healthy diet.
‘With these displays, every primary school will have lots of material for children and parents to use which will help children achieve healthy futures. Not only will there be information on healthy eating but there will be a mass of information on sporting events and activities.
‘It is appropriate that this initiative should take place during Salt Awareness Week, which highlights the dangers of too much salt in the diet and has some very practical advice on how to reduce the amount of salt being consumed.
‘It is as children that we lay down so many foundations for our future and a healthy diet and lifestyle is just one of the cornerstones that will equip us well for our adult lives.’
Janna Horsthuis, Director with Robinson’s Fresh Foods, said:
‘We can’t emphasise enough how important healthy eating, and including ‘five a day’ into children’s daily diet, is. At Robinson’s we want to encourage all children from a young age to try new and exciting fruit and vegetables. We are pleased to support primary schools with healthy eating material, including tasting days, samples and posters for classrooms and dining rooms.’
Schools requiring more information should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
PICTURE: Janna Horsthuis presents a display holder, to contain healthy eating materials, to Anagh Coar Primary School Headteacher Vicky Dassoulas, Schools Catering Manager Chris Wilson and Anagh Coar School cook supervisor Christine Crellin.