Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A majority of the people consume double the recommended daily intake of salt putting themselves at greater risk of the heart diseases and stroke. The diseases kill an estimated three million people each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The recommended intake of salt is 5g per day, per person, but the organization noted that consumption of processed food is a rapidly increasing source of sodium. Processed and packaged bread, savoury snacks, meat products and cheese are among the categories of high-sodium food products identified for the new global benchmarks.
“Most people don’t know how much sodium they consume, or the risks it poses,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. He added that the countries need to establish policies to reduce salt intake and provide people with the information they need to make the right food choices.
The health agency was releasing a new set of global guidelines for sodium levels in more than 60 food categories that will help countries reduce sodium contents in foods to improve diets. The new guide, they say, will offer harmonized global benchmarks that will show countries how they can progressively lower their targets, based on their local food environments, and encourage the industry to lower the sodium content in processed foods accordingly.
Dr Tedros also observed a need for the food and beverage industry to cut sodium levels in processed foods. WHO’s new benchmarks give countries and industry a starting point to review and establish policies to transform the food environment and save lives and target a wide range of categories of processed and packaged food products that significantly contribute to overly salty diets.
Reducing sodium content by reformulating processed foods is a proven strategy to reduce population sodium intake, particularly in places where consumption of processed foods is high. It can also prevent processed foods from becoming a major source of sodium in countries where consumption of these manufactured foods may be rapidly increasing.
In the United Kingdom for instance, voluntary targets for food manufacturers to reformulate products decreased adult salt intake approximately 15 per cent between 2003 and 2011, indicating that target-setting across multiple food categories can achieve meaningful reductions in sodium consumption.
“Access to affordable, healthy foods is critically important for all people in every country. These global benchmarks are an important first step. As consumer tastes adjust and technology advances, country governments and the WHO can steadily reduce them over time until population sodium reduction goals have been met”, said Dr. Tom Frieden, President of Resolve to Save Lives, an Initiative of Vital Strategies, a global NGO that works against cardiovascular diseases in a statement on Wednesday.
“When we reduce sodium gradually, our food will still taste great, and only our hearts will know the difference”, he added.