More than 40,000 Britons are dying unnecessarily every year because of high levels of salt and fat in their diets, the Government’s public health watchdog Nice has warned.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) says that unhealthy foods have wreaked a “terrible toll of ill health” on the nation and placed a “substantial” strain on the economy.
For the first time, the organisation publishes landmark guidance on how to prevent the “huge number of unnecessary deaths” from conditions such as heart disease that are linked to the consumption of ready meals and processed food.
The NHS watchdog NICE is calling for trans-fats to be eliminated from food in England.
The artificial fats are often found in biscuits, cakes and fast food – but they can damage health.
NICE is also pressing for further reductions in salt and saturated fats, to help prevent deaths from cardiovascular disease.
The British food industry said it was already leading the world in promoting healthier production.
Cardiovascular disease, which comprises heart disease and stroke, is the biggest cause of death in the UK.
Experts who worked on the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines say 40,000 of the 150,000 annual deaths are “eminently preventable”.
They believe that reducing salt and saturated fats, as well as banning trans-fats, would save the NHS more than £1bn.
The group’s vice-chairman, Professor Simon Capewell, who is a public health physician in Liverpool, said: “Everyone has the idea that prevention is worthy, but takes decades to be fulfilled.
“We were pleasantly surprised when we looked into this.
“We found evidence from Poland, the Czech Republic and Cuba that changes in diet can lead to results with improved health in two to three years.”