by Natasha Arendorf

A salty affair

SA continues its battle with salt

A saltry affair
SA continues its battle with salt

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

“This is wonderful news and the Heart & 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 has, 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.

Statistics show that there are about 130 heart attacks and 240 strokes daily in South Africa. That means that 10 people 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 found in food rather than individuals adding it at 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 salt is not good for their health but they don’t know that it is actually killing them,” warns Dr Mungal-Singh.

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 who are 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.”  

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Issue 16


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