Press Release

Minister Mary Wallace announces action to reduce salt in Irish diet.

Ms Mary Wallace, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for Health Promotion and Food Safety, today (7th September, 2008) expressed her support for action to reduce salt in the Irish diet. The recent Survey of Lifestyle, Attitudes & Nutrition (SLÁN) 2007 found that daily salt intake per adult in Ireland is almost 10 grams per day, well above the recommended level of 6 grams per day.

The Minister said “This level of intake needs to be reduced as a diet high in salt can increase blood pressure levels and in turn increase risk of heart attack or stroke. If everyone in Ireland reduced their salt intake by a half teaspoon we could prevent about 900 deaths each year from these diseases. We want to encourage people to cut back on adding salt to food at home and when eating out, as well as looking at what is on the labels of processed foods.”

The Minister acknowledged that most salt in our diet is hidden in processed foods. Research shows that the sensitivity of the salt taste receptors in the mouth depends on an individual’s habitual salt intake and once salt intake has been reduced for a month or more, highly salted food becomes distasteful. Thus, supporting the case for a gradual reduction in the salt content of processed food.

The Minister congratulated the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) for its Salt Reduction Programme and the commitment to securing a voluntary incremental reduction in the levels of salt in processed food through the Food and Drink Industry Ireland (FDII), IBEC, since 2005. A large number of Food Industry partners are participating in this programme and are already engaged in reformulating their products to make them lower in salt.

Minister Wallace welcomed the EU Common Framework on Salt Reduction which is being introduced to Food Industry partners and other key stakeholders, by the Department of Health and Children, at a workshop in the Royal Irish Academy on Monday 8th September, 2008.

“Many of the foods linked with overweight and obesity are often not only high in fat and sugar, but are also high in salt. Therefore, if we reduce our consumption of such foods, through smaller portion sizes, we will automatically reduce our consumption of salt”the Minister said

On Monday 8th September 2008, the Department of Health and Children holds a Salt Reduction Workshop to introduce the recent EU Common Framework on Salt Reduction to the Food Industry and other key stakeholders. The EU Common Framework was developed in line with the recommendations in the Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues, launched by the Commission in 2007. The Framework was developed by the High Level Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity and supported by 19 Member States, including Ireland, at it’s recent meeting in July. The Framework was welcomed in Brussels by the Confederation of European Food Industries (CIAA).

Stakeholders invited to the Salt Reduction Workshop heard that key areas of action in the EU Common Framework include data gathering on salt consumption and current salt levels of foods, aiming to achieve the benchmark for salt reduction of 16% over a four year timeframe (4% per year). The major food categories to focus on for reformulation over the next four years are bread, meat products, cheeses and ready meals.

The EU Common Framework, supported by the Department of Health and Children will provide a supportive framework to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Salt Reduction Programme and to key organisations who continue to educate the consumer about the health benefits of salt reduction.