Achieving the WHO sodium target: estimation of reductions required in the sodium content of packaged foods and other sources of dietary sodium1–3

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Abstract

Background:

Excess sodium intake is one of the top 2 dietary risk factors contributing to the global burden of disease. As such, many countries are now developing national sodium reduction strategies, a key component of which is a sodium reduction model that includes sodium targets for packaged foods and other sources of dietary sodium.

Objective:

We sought to develop a sodium reduction model to determine the reductions required in the sodium content of packaged foods and other dietary sources of sodium to reduce adult population salt intake by ˜30% toward the optimal WHO target of 5 g/d.

Design:

Nationally representative household food-purchasing data for New Zealand were linked with branded food composition information to determine the mean contribution of major packaged food categories to total population sodium consumption. Discretionary salt use and the contribution of sodium from fresh foods and foods consumed away from the home were estimated with the use of national nutrition survey data. Reductions required in the sodium content of packaged foods and other dietary sources of sodium to achieve a 30% reduction in dietary sodium intakes were estimated.

Results:

A 36% reduction (1.6 g salt or 628 mg Na) in the sodium content of packaged foods in conjunction with a 40% reduction in discretionary salt use and the sodium content of foods consumed away from the home would reduce total population salt intake in New Zealand by 35% (from 8.4 to 5.5 g/d) and thus meet the WHO 2025 30% relative reduction target. Key reductions required include a decrease of 21% in the sodium content of white bread, 27% for hard cheese, 42% for sausages, and 54% for ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.

Conclusions:

Achieving the WHO sodium target in New Zealand will take considerable efforts by both food manufacturers and consumers and will likely require a national government-led sodium reduction strategy.

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