The new set of WHO global benchmarks in more than 60 food categories will help reduce
sodium contents in foods to improve diets and save lives.
Many people consume double the WHO-recommended 5g of daily salt intake, thereby
putting themselves at greater risk of heart diseases and strokes that kill an estimated 3
million people each year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a new set of global benchmarks for sodium
levels in more than 60 food categories that will help countries reduce sodium contents in
foods to improve diets and save lives.
An estimated 11 million deaths globally are associated with poor diet each year, including 3
million attributable to high sodium intake, it said in a report.
In many wealthy countries, and increasingly in lower-income nations, a significant proportion
of sodium in the diet comes from manufactured foods such as bread, cereal, processed
meats, and dairy products including cheese, the WHO said.
Sodium Chloride is the chemical name for salt and sodium is a mineral that regulates the
amount of water in the body.
Authorities must establish policies to reduce salt intake and provide people with information
to make the right food choices, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“We also need the food and beverage industry to cut sodium levels in processed food,”
Tedros said in a statement.
The new WHO benchmarks, for 64 food and drink categories, are aimed at guiding health
authorities in its 194 member states in talks with the food and beverage industry.
For example, potato crisps should contain a maximum of 500 mg of sodium per 100g
serving, pies and pastries up to 120 mg, and processed meats up to 360mgs, according to
“Excess dietary sodium intake increases blood pressure and consequently increases the risk
of cardiovascular diseases,” the WHO said.
Cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of deaths from non-communicable
diseases worldwide, responsible for 32% of all deaths, the WHO said. High sodium intake is
associated with obesity, chronic kidney disease, and gastric cancer, it said.
WHO recommends that people consume less than 5g of salt (or less than 2g of sodium) per
day, it said.
In the United Kingdom, voluntary targets for food manufacturers to reformulate products
decreased adult salt intake by approximately 15% between 2003 and 2011, indicating that
target-setting across multiple food categories can achieve meaningful reductions in sodium
“Access to affordable, healthy foods is critically important for all people in every country,”
said Dr. Tom Frieden, President, and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital
Strategies. “These global benchmarks are an important first step. As consumer tastes adjust
and technology advances, country governments and the WHO can steadily reduce them
over time until population sodium reduction goals have been met. When we reduce sodium
gradually, our food will still taste great, and only our hearts will know the difference!”
Its global target, set in 2013, is for a 30% reduction in the population average intake of salt
by 2025, it said, adding: “The world is not currently on track to meet this goal.”