Traffic light labelling on foods 'could help cut stomach cancers linked to salt'Charity calls for green labels on foods low in salt, amber for medium content and red for salty productsOne in seven cases of stomach cancer could be avoided by cutting salt intake
10:02 GMT, 23 July 2012
Food labelling must be improved to cut the number of stomach cancers linked to salt, experts have warned.
One in seven cases of stomach cancer in the UK could be avoided by reducing salt intake to recommended levels, research suggests.
Too much salt can promote cancer by damaging the stomach lining, and Britons consume an average of 8.6 grams each a day – 43 per cent higher than the maximum recommended amount.
The World Cancer Research Fund is calling for a standardised form of colour-coded 'traffic light' labelling on foods, which it says would help consumers to better control the amount of salt, sugar and fat they take.
Excess: Too much salt can promote stomach cancer, researchers have found
The charity is recommending green labels
for foods low in salt (less than 0.3g per 100g), amber for medium
content (between 0.3g and 1.5g per 100g), and red for high salt levels
(more than 1.5g per 100g).
Kate Mendoza, head of information at the charity, said: 'Stomach cancer is difficult to treat successfully because most cases are not caught until the disease is well established.
'This places even greater emphasis on making lifestyle choices to prevent the disease occurring in the first place – such as cutting down on salt intake and eating more fruit and vegetables.'
Ms Mendoza added: 'Because around three-quarters of the salt we consume is already in processed food when we buy it, WCRF would like to see traffic light labelling on the front of food and drink packaging to give clear guidance on the levels of salt as well as sugar, fat and saturated fat.
'Standardised labelling among retailers and manufacturers – rather than the different voluntary systems currently in place – would help consumers make better informed and healthy choices.'
Better: Cases of stomach cancer could be cut if food labelling were improved, the World Cancer Research Fund claims. (Picture posed by model)
Each year in the UK around 7,500 new cases of stomach cancer are diagnosed and almost 5,000 people die from the disease.
Cutting salt intake to six grams a day could prevent 1,050 of these cases, according to the WCRF.
Excess salt is also linked to high blood pressure, the main cause of strokes and a significant cause of heart disease, as well as osteoporosis and kidney disease.
A Department of Health spokesman said: 'We already know too much salt can lead to conditions such as heart disease and stroke.
'That is why we are taking action through the Responsibility Deal to help reduce the salt in peoples' diets.
'And we are looking at clearer salt labelling on foods as part of our consultation on front of pack labelling.
'We keep these findings under review alongside other emerging research in the field.'
Good example: Some foods already have traffic light labels, but campaigners want to see the system standardised