May 14, 2021

Campaigners have called for greater efforts to be made to cut salt levels in food after the World Health Organisation released its first ever sodium benchmarks.

The organisation has set maximum recommended levels for more than 60 categories of food, including bread, breakfast cereals savoury snacks, cheese, processed meat and plant-based meat alternatives. It said it hopes the guidelines will be useful to countries setting national policies.

“The setting of global sodium benchmarks is a very important step to facilitate reformulation of food products, which contributes to drive progress in sodium reduction,” the WHO said in a statement.

As well as being used when countries draw up rules, the sodium benchmarks will, said the WHO, be part of “ongoing dialogue between WHO and the private sector at the global level”.

In a statement, Mhairi Brown, Programme Manager for World Action on Salt, Sugar and Health, described the benchmarks as “a positive and ambitious step forward for salt reduction”.

“We are hopeful that the WHO’s leadership will help kickstart salt reduction efforts in countries that have so far struggled to implement a strategy,” she said.

However, she added, that more must be done by governments, industry and civil society to reduce salt intake and prevent the “huge impact” that salt has on health.

“Worldwide, everyone must commit to achieving these benchmarks if we are to have any hope of reaching the recommended salt intake of less than 5g per day,” she said.

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