WHO Targets 30% Global Reduction in Sodium In-take

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it has launched the second edition of sodium benchmark on processed foods expected to guide countries in setting feasible and effective sodium reformulation programme.

Speaking at this year’s World Salt Awareness Day organised bytge Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Abuja, the WHO Country Representative, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said this year’s World Salt Awareness Week aims to encourage the implementation of evidence-based interventions

to reduce salt consumption in the population to protect cardiovascular health and help prevent many other diseases.

He explained that this year’s theme was, “It’s time to shine the spotlight on salt,” was meant to highlight the issue of the “hidden” salt (sodium) in many processed and ultra-processed products.

He further said three-quarters of sodium in the diet comes from ultra-processed and processed foods, such as bread, sauces and dressings, crackers and cookies, ready-to-eat meals,

According to Molumbo, salt/sodium intake reduction was one of the most cost-effective interventions to check hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. He said WHO recommends less than five grammes of salt per day for an adult which is less than tea-spoonful.

“The objective of these benchmarks is to achieve a 30 percent global reduction in sodium intake. We will like to reiterate our commitment to supporting the country in the development and implementation priority Activities towards sodium reduction.

“We therefore join our voices to this call-to-action with a call to: countries to adopt the global sodium benchmarks to reduce their populations’ sodium intake,  We urge Industries to implement the global sodium benchmarks, reformulate food products,” he said.

The WHO scribe said the organisation along with other partners are working with the federal government to develop national targets setting and sodium benchmarking.

According to WHO Country Representative, the collaboration would help to accelerate reformulation action, adding that it also continues to monitor progress in reduction sodium intake around the world by updating on sodium country card and periodically publishing global sodium reduction reports.

Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Pate, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Daju Kachallom said an estimated 10 percent of hypertension cases in the country was being caused by excessive salt consumption.

He listed measures being taken by government to address excessive salt consumption in the country to include implementation of the National Multi-sectoral Action Plan (NMSAP) for the prevention and control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2019 which aims at combating the silent epidemic of non-communicable diseases through strategic policy intervention.

Another step being taken by government was the revision of the national policy on food safety and quality and its implementation plan for 2023.

“This revision includes a crucial

emphasis on healthy diets and underscores the importance of developing a National Guideline for Sodium Reduction,” she said.

The minister also said the ministry has inaugurated the National Technical Working Group on Sodium Reduction.

“Together, they are developing the first National Guideline on Sodium Reduction. This groundbreaking work is expected to reach completion in the 3rd Quarter of 2024. We have initiated the development of the First National Sodium Benchmark.

“This involves drafting mandatory sodium targets for selected food categories, a step that will pave the way for scientific and measurable progress in our fight against excessive salt consumption,” she said.

On its part, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), said that apart from promoting public health through sensitisation and advocacy on sodium/salt reduction, it carried out stakeholders’ engagements and implementation of mandatory nutrition labelling, introduction of front-of-pack labelling and encouraging industry to reformulate food products.

Technical Lead of Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), Jerome Mafeni, said the event was aimed enlightening members of the public on the health dangers of excessive salt consumption.

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