Monday, December 27, 2010


Voluntary reduction of salt in processed foods by the industry without coercion by the government is a dream being pursued in many countries with practically no impact on the issue. That salt intake, if reduced significantly can help in cutting down of mortality due to health disorders like CVD and others is well known but the common citizens does not seem to have much control on the problem in countries where they depend more and more on processed foods. Industry is reluctant to cut the use of salt in many products because of serious apprehensions regarding the acceptability of these salt-reduced products in a fiercely competitive market. There are reports that in some countries voluntary efforts by the industry in reducing use of salt have yielded results, albeit at a slow pace but experts believe that only mandatory and restrictive policies can expedite the goal. Here is a typical case of the bead industry in Australia where voluntary salt reduction assurances were not effective.

"Although various targets had been outlined and it had been agreed by the industry by 2009, a recent research has shown that the level of salt in the nation's bread supply has not undergone any changes in the last four years. A study had been carried out by the Sydney-based George Institute for Global Health (GIGH) which showed that there had been some reduction in the salt levels of some of the bread makers while for some other products it had increased with the net effect of no change. "Less than half of the bread products on Australian supermarket shelves currently meet the sodium target (400mg/100g) established by the government's food and health dialogue", the reports said. Between the years 2007 and 2010, there has been no change in the average sodium levels in Australian bread products. This report also puts forth the names of the best and worst bakers on their effort to reduce salt".

It is not clear as to why bread industry is being accused of not reducing salt since a product like bread contains very little salt but more serious culprits are snacking and restaurant industries which are responsible for a large part of salt ingestion by the people. Also not clear is why the bread industry cannot reduce the salt levels because salt is not a significant ingredient that can influence the quality of the end product. While the bread industry can be forced to cut down drastically on the use of salt, what about the consumer who is likely to go for that ubiquitous "salt sprinkler" on the dining table to satisfy his taste buds? What can be done to persuade him not to consume too much salt in his every day cuisine? The only answer is "education" and unless a wider awareness about the dangers of too much salt in food is dinned into their ears, no worthwhile results can be expected in achieving universal goal of salt reduction.


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