Publication Details

Charlton, K., Webster, J. & Kowal, P. (2014). To legislate or not to legislate? A comparison of the UK and South African approaches to the development and implementation of salt reduction programs. Nutrients, 6 (9), 3672-3695.


The World Health Organization promotes salt reduction as a best-buy strategy to reduce chronic diseases, and Member States have agreed to a 30% reduction target in mean population salt intake by 2025. Whilst the UK has made the most progress on salt reduction, South Africa was the first country to pass legislation for salt levels in a range of processed foods. This paper compares the process of developing salt reduction strategies in both countries and highlights lessons for other countries. Like the UK, the benefits of salt reduction were being debated in South Africa long before it became a policy priority. Whilst salt reduction was gaining a higher profile internationally, undoubtedly, local research to produce context-specific, domestic costs and outcome indicators for South Africa was crucial in influencing the decision to legislate. In the UK, strong government leadership and extensive advocacy activities initiated in the early 2000s have helped drive the voluntary uptake of salt targets by the food industry. It is too early to say which strategy will be most effective regarding reductions in population-level blood pressure. Robust monitoring and transparent mechanisms for holding the industry accountable will be key to continued progress in each of the countries.



Link to publisher version (DOI)