Updated 25 March 2013

Motsoaledi signs new salt regulations

The Heart and Stroke Foundation has congratulated Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on signing regulations to reduce the salt content in several foodstuffs.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa welcomed the announcement that the health minister on 18 March 2013 signed legislation to make salt reduction in the food industry mandatory.

"This is wonderful news and the Heart and Stroke Foundation would like to congratulate the Minister of Health, Mr Aaron Motsoaledi, on taking this important step, helping South Africans to reduce salt in their diet," says Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA.

"Other countries have introduced salt reduction on a voluntary basis and not always successfully. South Africa may achieve salt reduction targets quicker compared to other countries where salt legislation is not mandatory and the world will be watching us to see if our approach works," she said.

Mr Motsoaledi on many occasions stated his intention to regulate the food industry in terms of permitted salt content to help lower blood pressure amongst the population and thereby save lives.

South Africans have one of the highest rates of hypertension worldwide. An estimated 6.3 million people are believed to be living with high blood pressure in SA, making them more susceptible to life-threatening diseases like stroke and heart disease.

10 strokes, 5 heart attacks every hour

Statistics show that there are about 130 heart attacks and 240 strokes daily in South Africa. That means that 10 people will suffer a stroke and five people will have a heart attack – every hour.

Mr Motsoaledi has been supportive of salt reduction campaigns for some time, stating back in 2011 in Parliament that: "[The] South African diet has been shown to be very high in salt. The desired amount of salt for your body is known to be 4-6g per day. But in our country it is up to 9.8 grams per day i.e. more than two times the physiologically required amount. More salt is already found in food rather than individuals adding it on the table."

The World Health Organisation recommends that adults eat less than 5g of salt (a teaspoon) a day.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation says a staggering 80% of cardiovascular diseases could be prevented through modified behaviour – like reducing salt.

"Many South Africans know that too much of salt is not good for their health but they don’t know that it is actually killing them," warns Dr Mungal-Singh.

Salt Watch

The organisation last week launched a new lobby group called Salt Watch, formed to educate South Africans on the dangers of high salt consumption. The group will complement the work done at government level.

"The problem is that up to 60% of this salt is hidden in products and consumed by people probably unaware of the high salt content in their food," says Dr Mungal-Singh.

Studies have shown that South African bread is among the saltiest in the world.

Dr Singh says that fortunately many role players in the food industry are supportive of the new legislation and have already begun implementing salt reduction strategies in food manufacturing. 

"Legislation alone is not going to lower salt consumption in the country and improve health. This is going to be a collaborative effort of government, the food industry and organisations such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

"And the people of South Africa also have a role to play. People have to start choosing products with lower salt and to use less salt at the table and when cooking."

- (Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa press release) 

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