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Salt Reducing in Processed Foods - Salt in Diet Still High

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Food Safety Authority (FSAI) has today published an update of its annual salt monitoring programme. As part of this ongoing programme of monitoring which has been in place since 2003, the FSAI examined 530 samples of processed food in 2015 across four food product categories including: processed meats, breads, breakfast cereals and spreadable fats. Significant reductions in salt content was observed across a variety of products, but most notably in processed meats such as rashers, cooked ham and sausages.

According to Dr Wayne Anderson, Director of Food Science and Standards, FSAI, the average salt intake of Irish consumers still exceeds the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended 5g salt per day.

    “While levels of salt have decreased in processed foods, the average dietary salt intakes in Irish adults continue to exceed the recommended daily intake of 5g salt per day. The estimated average daily salt intake in Irish adults is currently 11.1g salt per/day in men and 8.5g salt per/day in women. We would ask consumers to read product labels for information on salt content and reduce the amount of salt they add themselves in cooking and at the table.”

The FSAI states that there have been significant salt reductions across all processed food groups and sectors including: processed meats, bread, breakfast cereals and spreadable fats. These include:

Processed Meats:
Rashers                      -27%
Cooked ham               -15%
Sausage products      -11%

White bread               -17%
Wholemeal bread      -25%
Wholegrain bread      -29%
Specialty products     -42%

Breakfast Cereals:
Cornflake based        -63%
Rice based                -48%
Bran based                -39%
Multigrain cereal        -38%

Spreadable Fats:
Blended spread (>62%, but <80% fat)    -29%
All blends and blended spreads              -27%

    “Salt plays an important role in the diet, but people in Ireland are simply eating too much of it and this increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. The addition of salt at the table or in cooking by consumers can represent up to 20%-30% of a person’s total salt intake. The FSAI is calling on consumers to read product labels, select low salt or salt free options when choosing products and to cut back on the high levels of salt added during cooking and at the table. If you are unsure about the level of salt you are consuming in any product please refer to the nutrition labelling Reference Intake (RI) which will give you the percentage of RI per portion of food”, stated Dr Anderson.

The FSAI believes that the reformulation of foods must be driven by the industry, with the FSAI continuing its independent monitoring of levels.

    “Overall we are satisfied with the latest salt reductions and this outlines Irish manufacturers’ commitment and positive contribution being made to tackle health issues. Going into the future, the industry needs to pursue further research and development to achieve further reductions where possible”, concluded Dr Anderson.

Monitoring of Sodium and Potassium in Processed Foods