London: Heart disease could be cut by almost a fifth if food companies were banned from adding too much salt to their products.
A major study has found such laws would be 20 times more effective in improving health than offering dietary advice.
Many foods, including ready meals, pizzas and sandwiches, contain well over half the recommended daily amount in a single portion, according to the journal Heart.
Guidelines recommend that people eat no more than six grams of salt a day, although average daily consumption in Britain is nine grams, the Daily Mail reported.
Researchers in Australia found that forcing companies to limit the amount of salt in their products would cut deaths from heart disease by 18 percent.
Such restrictions might include banning ready meals from having more than three grams of salt and crisps and sandwiches more than 0.6 grams.
Lead researcher Linda Cobiac from the University of Queensland said: "If corporate responsibility fails, maybe there is an ethical justification for government to step in and legislate."
Heart attacks and strokes are by far the biggest killers, claiming 230,000 lives in Britain every year alone, according to figures.