South Africans Eating Less Salt from Today as New Law Kicks In
BY Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
From today, 30 June 2016, South Africans will be eating less salt, and most people will be blissfully unaware. New legislation to reduce salt in processed foods comes into effect on 30 June 2016.
South Africans eat on average double the recommended daily salt limit of 5 grams a day. Most of this salt does not come from what consumers add themselves, but rather from what is added during manufacturing. Excess salt intake can raise blood pressure, thereby contributing to heart disease, strokes and kidney disease. From today, South Africans will eat a little less salt as legislation comes into effect to reduce the salt content of commonly consumed foods.
Most salt is hidden in everyday foods
On average, 4 slices of bread provides 1.6 grams or a quarter teaspoon of salt per day - a third of the recommended maximum. A portion of sausage or boerewors can provide 2.5 grams of salt. Even sweet breakfast cereals can bump up salt intake by another gram. Surprised? Consumers can use www.saltcalculator.co.za to find out where the salt in their diet comes from.
The three-year wait is finally over
The amendment to the foodstuff regulations was published in the Government Gazette in March 2013. A three-year implementation period was granted to allow time for manufacturers to experiment with reformulation and produce lower salt products that are still acceptable to consumers. From today, all manufacturers need to abide to new salt levels.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s ground-breaking bill imposes maximum salt level targets for a basket of commonly consumed foods. Foods affected includes bread, breakfast cereal, margarines and butter, savoury snacks, potato crisps, processed meats, sausages, soup and gravy powders, instant noodles and stocks. Each of these food categories has an individual target to be achieved by today, and another stricter limit that needs to be met by 2019.
The impact of reduced salt on heart diseases and strokes
In a simulation study, researchers estimated that a reduction of salt from breads, margarine, soup and seasonings will amount to a 0.85 gram daily reduction per person. Using expected improvements in blood pressure and national statistics, they calculated the expected impact on our nation’s health. This level of salt reduction is estimated to result in 7 400 fewer cardiovascular deaths and 4 300 fewer non-fatal strokes every year1.
Are food manufacturers worth their salt?
The big question is whether companies are on target to meet the deadline and if the foods on our shelves are actually lower in salt? Sibonile Dube, corporate affairs director for Unilever SA says, “All our products being manufactured, post June 2016, will be 100 percent compliant to the salt regulations. There will still be some older stock in circulation, but we can assure consumers that we have met these targets.” Le-Anne Engelbrecht, brand manager at SASKO breads, echoes this response: “SASKO has been hard at work to align with the required salt regulations and is well on track to meet the sodium targets within the specified deadline.”
Legislation is not a standalone solution
While legislation is an important step, it will not completely resolve our excess salt intake. South African consumers add on average 4 grams of salt to food at home. This alone nearly meets the World Health Organisation’s maximum limit of 5 grams or 1 teaspoon per day. There are also many foods that are not included in the legislation either. Salted peanut butter contains 800 times more salt than the unsalted variety.
Foods affected by legislation like potato chips and processed meats will still be very salty even after target levels have been met. Not forgetting takeouts - a fried chicken or burger meal provides double to triple our daily intake, sometimes even more. Consumers should read food labels to compare products and demand less salty products. All foods with the Heart Mark logo have been evaluated and are lower salt options. Of course our responsibility doesn’t end whilst shopping - adding less salt whilst cooking and at the table is just as important.
1 Bertram et al. reducing the sodium content of high-salt foods: Effect on cardiovascular disease in South Africa. S Afr Med J 2012;102(9):743-745. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.5832
About the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) plays a leading role in the fight against preventable heart disease and stroke, with the aim of seeing fewer people in South Africa suffer premature deaths and disabilities. The HSFSA, established in 1980 is a non-governmental, nonprofit organisation which relies on external funding to sustain the work it carries out.
The HSFSA aims to reduce the cardiovascular disease (CVD) burden in South Africa and ultimately on the health care system of South Africa. Our mission is to empower people in South Africa to adopt healthy lifestyles, make healthy choices easier, seek appropriate care and encourage prevention.
For more information contact the Heart and Stroke Health Line on 0860 1 HEART (43278). Alternatively, contact Nuraan Cader, Public Relations & Communications Officer, email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org (Public Relations Intern), Tel: 021 422 1586.
For more about the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, refer to or refer to www.heartfoundation.co.za.
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