The food industry may in the future be legally bound to reduce the salt content in its products. The move is aimed at reducing the rate of people suffering from non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Concerned Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said the Department of Health would be taking on the salt dietary issue in a major way. He was speaking at the Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases held in Boksburg recently.
The South African diet is generally high in salt content, with an average intake of 7,8 grams per day in black people; 8,5 grams per day in mixed races and 9,8 grams per day in whites. The desired amount of salt is between 4 and 6 grams per day.
"Contrary to many people's belief, most salt intake is in processed food rather than added to it. This means that we need a combination of public education to encourage people to reduce the salt they add, but also regulate the food industry to reduce the salt content of processed foods," Motsoaledi said. Foods with high salt content, which would warrant monitoring, include bread, spices, cereals and salty snacks.
High blood pressure
High dietary salt intake is estimated to cause about a third of all cases of high blood pressure. It can also increase the risk of stroke and kidney disease. According to a South African study, the number of deaths that can be avoided by reducing salt intake just from bread is around 6 500 per year.
The regulation on salt follows the recent approval of the trans fats regulations, where manufactures are expected to reduce the amount of fats in food. Motsoaledi said manufacturers have been given a grace period to adapt to the new trans fats laws.
"The implementation date has just passed and the time has come for us to ensure that the law is being put into practice. We are confident that this legislation will play an important role in reducing the incidence of non-communicable diseases," Motsoaledi said, warning that manufacturers who failed to comply would be given a fine.