WHO outlines variety of salt reduction strategies across Europe

Lower salt consumption would improve heart health on a population level, WHO says

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a new report outlining European salt reduction strategies – and while most countries are following EU guidelines, there are still big differences between policies.

Most countries in the European region that have salt reduction strategies operate them with government oversight, although the WHO acknowledges that non-governmental organisations and advocacy groups have also played a vital role. WASH (World Action on Salt and Health) has been particularly active and has “at least put salt on the radar” in countries without any salt reduction strategy.

Industry participation has remained voluntary in most countries, with the exception of labelling initiatives, and 33 out of the 53 countries in the WHO European region have implemented some sort of consumer awareness programme. Thirty-one countries have carried out a baseline assessment, either through urine analysis, intake surveys, or analysis of salt levels in food categories.

"Member States are taking seriously the negative impacts of unhealthy diets on well-being, development and growth,” said WHO regional director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab.

“Action on salt reduction by activating the engagement of stakeholders, reformulation of food, provision of proper and meaningful information to consumers and an adequate monitoring system of dietary salt intake and its major sources in the diet is, therefore, possible. Furthermore, such action saves lives and reduces disability."

The WHO recommends a daily salt intake of no more than 5 g per person to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. However, most Europeans consume 8 – 11 g of salt each day.

The report found that labelling activities were planned or already taking place in 17 countries in the region, and varied as to whether they were mandatory or voluntary. However, most industry involvement in salt reduction was voluntary, and included food reformulation and inclusion of targets in corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports.

Click here to access the full report, which includes a detailed breakdown of each country’s salt reduction activities.

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