Reducing the salt in food

Today the Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie received the food industry’s targets for reducing the salt content in various food groups by 2018.

“I’m happy that my initiative for a closer collaboration with the food industry in this area has now given results. I would like to praise the industry for the work that has been done to reach concrete targets for the reduction of salt in various food groups,” says Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.

Today Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie received the food industry’s targets for reducing the salt content of various food groups by 2018 (the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services)

The aim is to reduce the salt content of sausages, sandwich meats and mince products by 15%, bread by 18%, butter, butter-containing margarines and cooking margarines by 25%, 15% and 45% respectively, pizzas by 28% and snacks by 15%.

“The figures that I have received today apply to the companies that are represented in the industry group. They are major players within the industry. I hope that this will inspire others in the sector, so that the industry as a whole will follow-up the work to reduce the salt content of products through the salt partnership that will now be initiated by the Ministry of Health,” says Høie.

Høie held his second meeting with the food industry group on Monday 27 October. The minister would like to establish a closer collaboration on public health between the authorities and the food industry, and for the industry to commit to developing and offering healthier products.

The industry group consists of representatives from the major players within the food industry. The group will work to develop concrete measures that will help to improve the public’s diet in line with the World Health Organisation’s dietary recommendations and targets to reduce salt, sugar and saturated fat.

“When the Norwegian food industry’s major players work together to develop healthier food products with a lower salt content, this will provide results that will be evident in everyone’s fridge; from those of us who think it is easy to live healthily, to those of us who find it more difficult. It will improve the diet of the entire population and provide significant public health benefits,” says Høie. “The health authorities will take their share of the responsibility by providing information about salt. We will also monitor the development of the salt content in food products, as well as the population’s salt intake,” he says.

The labelling of food was also discussed at the meeting on Monday. There was agreement that the Keyhole scheme is an effective labelling scheme that should be developed further, and broad support was expressed for the EU’s new food information scheme that will come into effect from 13 December 2014.

At the next meeting, the industry group will discuss the reduction of saturated fat in food products, as well as how to promote healthy products that the public should be eating more of.

WHO objectives adopted by Norway:

Norway has adopted the WHO’s objective to reduce early deaths due to non-infectious diseases such as cancer, COPD, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases by 25% by 2025. In order to achieve this objective, the risks associated with tobacco, alcohol, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, being overweight and obesity must be reduced.

A reduction in the general population’s salt intake will result in significant health benefits. The WHO regards the reduction of the population’s salt intake as one of the most cost-effective public health initiatives. The WHO’s Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) strategy aims to reduce the population’s salt intake by 30% by 2025. Norway supports this global objective.

Meat products: A 15% salt reduction in the volume products sausages, sandwich meats and mince products.

Bread and grain products: The industrial bakeries have worked to reduce the amount of salt in their breads and baked goods over an extended period, which has resulted in an average reduction of 15%. Together, the bakers Mesterbakeren, Bakers, Goman and Norgesbakeriene have set the common target of an average of 0.9 grams of salt per 100 grams in their everyday breads by 2017. This is equivalent to a salt reduction of 18%.

Fats: For the types of butter that comprise the largest share of the market, the target salt reduction is 25%. For butter-containing margarines and cooking margarines, the target reductions are 15% and 45%, respectively.

Pizza: The salt level in frozen pizza has been significantly reduced for certain products. For others, the target salt reduction is 28%.

Snacks (chips, salted and/or roasted nuts, extruded/pelleted snacks): The potential reduction for the different products varies, but an average reduction of 15% is realistic.

Ready meals: Here there are many different products with variations in their composition, and the challenges relating to salt reduction are therefore complex. A realistic but ambitious target for the average salt content in ready meals is 0.8 grams of salt per 100 grams. The salt content of ready meals currently ranges from 0.2-2.1 grams of salt per 100 grams, with an average of around 1 gram of salt per 100 grams. A target of an average salt content of 0.8 grams of salt per 100 grams will entail a significant reduction for many of these products.

The potential for reducing the salt content of cheese and fish products is not so great. For example, the reduction of salt in Jarlsberg and Norvegia cheeses, which represent the majority of cheeses consumed in Norway, has long been an area of focus.

Read the entire memo from the industry group (pdf)