Excessive sodium intake has become a major global public health issue, contributing to heart disease, stroke, and premature death. In fact, unhealthy diets are a leading cause of death and disease globally, and excessive sodium intake is one of the main culprits, according to the WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Worldwide Action Plan!.. The WHO has issued a call to action for all countries to implement plans for sodium reduction, as a new global report reveals that the world is off-track to achieve its goal of reducing sodium intake by 30% by 2025. The report shows that most countries have yet to adopt any mandatory sodium reduction policies, leaving their populations at risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems.
To reverse this trend, the WHO is urging manufacturers to set ambitious sodium reduction targets in their products and is calling on all countries to implement policies for sodium reduction. The global health agency believes that saving lives through introducing cost-effective sodium reduction policies is an important component of action to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development target of reducing deaths from noncommunicable diseases.
Stop! Being Salty is Unhealthy! The WHO recommends a comprehensive approach to sodium reduction, including mandatory policies and "best buy" interventions related to sodium that greatly contribute to preventing non-communicable diseases. These interventions include reformulating foods to contain less salt and establishing public food procurement policies to limit salt or sodium-rich foods in institutions such as hospitals, schools, and workplaces.
In addition, the WHO recommends front-of-package labeling that helps consumers select products lower in sodium and public and media awareness-raising campaigns.
While only nine countries currently have a comprehensive package of recommended policies to reduce sodium intake, the report highlights that mandatory sodium reduction policies are more effective in achieving broader coverage and safeguarding against short-term commercial interests. These policies also provide a level playing field for food manufacturers.
Cut Sodium!.. As part of the report, the WHO developed a sodium country scorecard for member states based on the type and number of sodium reduction policies they have in place.
Less Salt, Good Health!.. The WHO is partnering with Resolve to Save Lives, a not-for-profit organization working with countries to prevent 100 million deaths from cardiovascular disease over 30 years, in its efforts to combat excessive sodium intake. The WHO believes that by taking comprehensive action on sodium reduction, countries can achieve significant reductions in diet and nutrition-related deaths and help meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development target of reducing deaths from noncommunicable diseases.
In conclusion, reducing excessive sodium intake is critical to promoting good health and preventing noncommunicable diseases. While the global report shows that the world is falling short of its sodium reduction targets, the WHO's call to action provides an opportunity for countries to take comprehensive action and save millions of lives.