Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Hail Britannia!

Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Hail Britannia!

Article excerpt

We could learn a lot about improving the food supply by looking at what Britain is doing these days.

The United Kingdom's disastrous bout with mad cow disease radicalized the country. With some 161 deaths since 1995 from the human version of mad cow (vCJD), many Britons have turned to natural and organic foods.

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Supermarkets try to outdo one another with more natural offerings, and the government has created a strong independent food-safety agency.

If there were a global contest for best national food-safety department, I suspect that Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) would win hands down.

* Salt. Several years ago, the FSA made salt a priority. The government set a goal of lowering sodium in foods (mostly from salt) by 33 percent. It mounted a high-profile, paid advertising campaign (see www.salt.gov.uk) to advise people that "too much salt is bad for your heart."

British officials cited McDonald's, Nestle, and other companies as marketing foods too high in salt. Officials urged food companies to lower sodium (by different percentages, depending on the food). And the government is now testing Britons' diets to determine how sodium consumption has changed since the campaign began.

* Bad fats, The FSA has added two new targets. Earlier this year, it sought public comment on its goals of educating consumers and getting companies to lower levels of heart-threatening saturated and trans fats.

* Food labels. To help consumers know the nutrient contents of foods, the British government urged companies to put stoplight-like symbols on the fronts of their packages. …

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