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Europeans need to reduce salt intake

The current daily salt consumption in most European countries, estimated between 8 and 12 grams, is too high, according to a recently published EU report. The The WHO recommended intake is not more than 5 grams per day. Some EU countries, however are working towards reducing this unhealthy consumption. The report 'Implementation of the EU Salt Reduction Framework – Results of Member States survey'pdf gives an overview of activities taken by countries to achieve this goal.

The report illustrates the first steps taken towards reducing the excessive salt intake across the EU, thus gradually improving diet and promoting health of Europeans. It concluded that countries which have been working on salt reduction for a number of years were the most likely to report specific actions in 2008 and 2009. They reported that the EU Framework on voluntary national salt initiatives supported their action, strengthened or broadened the approach, or helped to increase dialogue with industry.

The Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity-related Health Issues, adopted in May 2007, sets out the Commission’s priorities to address increasing trends in obesity and relevant health-related issues including salt intake reduction. The EU salt framework wants salt reduction in as many food products as possible. Generally, 75% of salt intake comes from processed food whilst only 10-15% comes from the addition of salt when cooking or at the table.

Evidence suggests that current levels of sodium consumption (mainly through salt intake) contribute to increased blood pressure in the population, and as a consequence to a higher risk of cardiovascular and renal disease. There is a clear link between high sodium intake and high blood pressure; likewise, there is conclusive scientific evidence showing that a reduction of sodium consumption reduces blood pressure.

Since the nutrition strategy for Europe was adopted, the report highlights an increase in the number of countries with salt reduction initiatives in place. Twenty-nine European countries, including all EU Member States plus Norway and Switzerland, have participated in the EU salt frame work, most of them have salt reduction initiatives. Fifteen countries have also developed public awareness campaigns on salt.

While the economic crisis in Europe may have an impact on the funding available for public health programmes, this interim report shows already that the EU salt framework has been a catalyst for action by a number of Member States with new initiatives introduced right across the EU.

European Commission – Public Health