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World Week Reduction in Food Consumption of Salt

Promoted by the World Action on Salt & Health, March 8-14, 2021

The Ministry of Health informs that the World Awareness Week for the reduction of salt food consumption takes place from 8 to 14 March, promoted by the World Action on Salt & Health (WASH), an association with partners in 100 countries on different continents, established in 2005 to improve the health of populations, through the gradual reduction of salt intake, down to less than 5 grams per day (corresponding to approximately 2 grams of sodium), a target recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Taking into account that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the time spent at home increased and, consequently, the use of home cooking, WASH dedicated the 2021 World Week to the theme "More flavor, less salt" ("More flavor, less salt ”) to sensitize the population to use less salt in the kitchen and at the table, in particular by refining their favorite recipes or creating new ones that are equally tasty. WASH reminds you that there are many ways to flavor food without adding salt to home cooked meals and stresses the importance of reducing the use of food products that may contain a lot of salt (soy sauces, ketchup, salad dressings, cold cuts), ready-made sauces, canned or pre-cooked foods, etc.).

The World Week is actively supported by the Italian Society of Clinical Nutrition (SINU).

WASH objectives are:

- raise awareness among governments of the need for a broad multisectoral population strategy in this area

- encourage multinational food companies to reduce salt in their products, considering that in many countries around 60-80% of the salt consumed is not added during cooking or at the table, but is already present in processed and packaged foods.

Excessive consumption of salt favors, in fact, an increase in blood pressure, with a consequent increase in the risk of the onset of serious cardio-cerebrovascular diseases related to arterial hypertension, such as myocardial infarction and stroke, and has been associated with other chronic diseases-degenerative, such as tumors, especially of the stomach, osteoporosis and kidney disease.

Some data

Globally, the daily consumption of salt largely exceeds the value recommended by the WHO and in some parts of the world reaches 15 grams / day. In Italy in the period 2018-2019 it was found, through the 24-hour urine collection in population samples aged 35-74 years residing in 10 Regions, an average daily consumption of salt equal to 9.5 grams in men and 7,2 grams in women.

Compared to the previous survey of the period 2008-2012, in which values of 10.8 g in men and 8.3 g in women were found, a significant reduction in salt consumption of about 12% was observed, i.e. more than one third of the target indicated in the WHO Global action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases 2013–2020, which foresees a relative reduction of 30% in the average consumption of salt / sodium in the population by 2025. However, consumption salt of the Italian adult population still remains well above that recommended by the WHO, both for men and for women: in the period 2018-2019, in fact, it was less than 5 grams / day in only 9% of men and in 23% of women, an improvement compared to 4% of men and 15% of women in the period 2008-2012.

It is therefore essential to continue the commitment on the part of food companies, institutions and citizens to reduce sodium intake through the reformulation of food products and less use of salt in the kitchen and at the table.

The consumption of salt in the Gaining Health program and in the National Prevention Plan

To this end, both the Gaining Health Program: making healthy choices easy (Italian DPCM 4 May 2007) have been contributing for some time, within which numerous memoranda of understanding have been signed between the Ministry of Health and associations of artisanal or industrial food producers aimed at reducing the salt content in different categories of food, both the National Prevention Plan. The reduction of excessive salt consumption represented, in fact, one of the central objectives of the National Prevention Plan (PNP) 2014-2018, extended to 2019, which was pursued by the Regions through the development of initiatives including, among other things, local intersectoral agreements and information activities for the population and training for operators connected to the food sector.

The new Italian National Prevention Plan 2020-2025, approved with the State-Regions Agreement of 6 August 2020, also provides for a strategic line of intervention for the reduction of salt consumption, confirming the importance of the objective in the context of promoting healthy nutrition for the prevention of chronic non-communicable diseases.

WASH recommends 5 concrete actions to reduce salt consumption to less than 5 grams per day:

  1. using herbs, spices, garlic, chili, herbs, black pepper, and citrus fruits in place of salt to add flavor to food
  2. drain and rinse vegetables and legumes and canned and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables
  3. check labels before buying to choose less salty food items
  4. gradually reduce the salt in your favorite recipes - allowing the taste buds to adapt
  5. do not put salt and salty sauces on the table, so that even the youngest of the family get used to not adding salt.
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