The WHO Takes Decisive Action to Reduce Salt Intake

The World Health Organization have been recommending a daily intake of less than 5 grams of salt since 2012. Any more than this increases the risk of a range of health problems from heart disease to strokes. Yet most people are still consuming far too much – on average 9-12 grams a day, which is around double the limit.

The WHO are now taking urgent steps to lower these levels of consumption and, for the very first time set targets for specific food categories.

And no wonder.

An estimated 3 million lives a year are lost due to people having excessive levels of sodium in their diets. This isn’t mainly down to liberal use of the salt shaker, but from packaged and processed foods. In some countries, 80% of salt intake comes from these sources.

The list includes bread (some loaves have as much salt per slice as a packet of potato chips), savoury snacks (one serving of pretzels can contain nearly a day’s supply of sodium) and meat products (a serving of ham contains, on average, nearly half the RDI). And these are by no means the only products with higher-than-expected sodium.  There are many more, such as soup, sauces and beans.

Overconsumption of salt is a global problem and the WHO is addressing it head-on, with a new series of guidelines designed to save lives and ease the strain on health services.

The key to achieving this is the reformulation of products to cut salt levels.

Guidelines for a Healthier Population

The encouraging news is that some manufacturers are already adjusting their formulations to reduce the salt content. In addition, consumers are being encouraged to read food labels, familiarise themselves with nutritional labelling and choose products that are lower in sodium.

But the WHO recognise that more needs to be done before they reach their stated aim of 30% reduction in global salt/sodium intake (and achieve that 5 gram daily salt limit) by 2025. They’ve already acknowledged that the world is not currently on target to meet this goal.

To get back on track they’ve released a comprehensive set of global benchmarks for sodium levels in more than 60 food categories, from breakfast cereals to cooking sauces, soup to vegetable juice, and from salami to sausages. These are based on technical and scientific work, as well as the experiences of participating countries.

There’s no doubt that the project is ambitious and challenging, but it’s also achievable. And sticking to these benchmarks will help countries reduce sodium content in foods to improve diets and save lives.

“Most people don’t know how much sodium they consume, or the risks it poses,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We need countries to establish policies to reduce salt intake and provide people with the information they need to make the right food choices.”

 “We also need 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.”

Reducing sodium content by reformulating processed foods is a proven way to cut salt intake especially in places where consumption of processed foods is considered excessive or is increasing rapidly.

Some examples of the new benchmarks include: 

  • Pizza and pizza snacks (refrigerated/frozen): 450mg sodium /100g. 
  • Ready-to-serve soups: 230mg sodium/100g. 
  • Leavened bread: 330mg sodium/100g.
  • Cured meat products: 950mg sodium /100g

The Smart Solution

Until now, a main problem for manufacturers has been how to go about reducing salt in the products without sacrificing taste and function. Simply dosing less salt isn’t an option – consumers would soon make their feelings known and sales would suffer. So what’s needed is something healthier to replace it with.

There are no shortage of salt substitutes on the market, but most have one big problem – they simply don’t taste nice and fail to satisfy salt senses.  And that’s not the only disadvantage. They don’t function so well either, which means significant reformation is often needed.

Often these substitutes simply switch from using Sodium Chloride (aka table salt) to Potassium Chloride, or an artificial blend with high levels of Potassium Chloride. Unfortunately, this ingredient comes with its own set of problems. The bitter or metallic taste of Potassium Chloride means that masking agents and extra ingredients need to be added. This not only compromises the product’s clean label credentials, but high levels Potassium Chloride can also pose a health risk to those with heart disease and diabetes.

The smart solution, and one which in terms of taste and function, is impossible to differentiate from salt, is Saltwell. The only difference being that Saltwell contains 35% less sodium, which is music to the ears of the WHO and food manufacturers around the world.

Saltwell is an all-natural form of sea salt, sourced from an underground sea below the Atacama Desert. When the mineral-rich water evaporates, a unique grain is formed, offering all the function and sensory advantages of salt with none of the drawbacks. The raw grains are purified and made food grade quality at BRC certified facilities in Cyprus. 

Through unique high-quality operations in Chile, Cyprus and Sweden, Saltwell meets strict international demands certified and approved by the global food industry. Saltwell helps any manufacturer to lower sodium levels in their products. And the beauty is that with Saltwell nothing needs to be sacrificed to achieve significant reduced sodium. No compromising on flavour or function, and no major reformation. 

A simple 1:1 replacement using Saltwell, gives you the same taste, but with significantly less sodium. It’s the natural, smart and efficient way to meet the new WHO benchmarks – and help to save lives.

For those actively involved in reducing sodium in foods, whether it be R&D, NPD, Sales, Marketing or just a curious food technologist, they can get samples of Saltwell here. 

And to download a PDF of the full WHO report showing all of the new benchmarks, click here.