Why we need massive efforts to reduce salt intake - WHO



Franca Ofili

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a first-of-its-kind global report on sodium intake reduction.

The report showed that the world was off-track to achieve its global target of reducing sodium intake by 30 per cent by 2025.

The report released on Thursday said that sodium, an essential nutrient, increased the risk of heart disease, stroke and premature death when eaten in excess.

According to it, the main source of sodium is table salt (sodium chloride), but it is also contained in other condiments such as sodium glutamate.

It said the report showed that only five per cent of WHO Member States were protected by mandatory and comprehensive sodium reduction policies and 73 per cent of WHO member states lacked a full range of implementation of such policies.

“Implementing highly cost-effective sodium reduction policies can save an estimated seven million lives globally by 2030.

“It is an important component of action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target of reducing deaths from noncommunicable diseases.

“But today, only nine countries (Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Uruguay) have a comprehensive package of recommended policies to reduce sodium intake,” it said.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said that unhealthy diets were a leading cause of death and disease globally, and excessive sodium intake remained one of the main culprits.

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“This report shows that most countries are yet to adopt any mandatory sodium reduction policies, leaving their people at risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems.

“WHO urges all countries to implement the ‘Best Buys’ for sodium reduction, and on manufacturers to implement the WHO benchmarks for sodium content in food,” Ghebreyesus said.

According to him, a comprehensive approach to sodium reduction includes adopting mandatory policies and WHO’s four “best buys” interventions related to sodium which greatly contribute to preventing non-communicable diseases.

WHO boss said the four best buys included first, reformulating foods to contain less salt, and setting targets for the amount of sodium in foods and meals.

Others, he said, were establishing public food procurement policies to limit salt or sodium-rich foods in public institutions such as hospitals, schools, workplaces and nursing homes.

“Third is front-of-package labelling that helps consumers select products lower in sodium.

“While the fourth is behaviour change communication and mass media campaigns to reduce salt/sodium consumption.”

He said that countries were encouraged to establish sodium content targets for processed foods, in line with the WHO Global Sodium Benchmarks and enforce them through these policies.

According to him, mandatory sodium reduction policies are more effective, as they achieve broader coverage and safeguard against commercial interests while providing a level playing field for food manufacturers.


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