We aim to aid countries worldwide to achieve a reduction in dietary salt intake from the current average of 10-15g per day to the World Health Organisation (WHO) maximum target of 5g per day.
This fall in salt intake and the resulting fall in blood pressure would lead to major reductions in incidents of, deaths from, and resulting disability of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) including stroke, heart failure and heart attacks.
- Build a global network of experts with an interest in salt reduction
- Provide resources and advice to the network to aid in the development, implementation and monitoring of population-level salt reduction strategies
- Help aid the translation of the vast body of evidence from the scientific community about the dangers of excessive salt consumption into policy worldwide
- Stimulate action on salt reduction from governments, the food industry, the media and the public
In 2005, World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) was set up following the success of Action on Salt in lowering salt intake in the UK.
Action on Salt is a UK-based expert group concerned with salt and its effects on health. Action on Salt is working to reach a consensus with the food industry and the UK Government over the harmful effects of a high salt diet, and bring about a reduction in the amount of salt in processed foods, catered foods and restaurant food, as well as salt added to cooking, and at the table. As a result, the salt content of nearly all food categories in the UK has fallen and population salt intake has decreased by 15% since 2003.
WASH will translate the success of the UK salt reduction strategy to countries worldwide, by providing resources and advice to our network of experts. WASH will continue to work closely with the WHO, having already stimulated a new initiative by the WHO to take a more coherent strategy towards salt reduction worldwide. There is no doubt that a leading group of worldwide experts will have enormous influence on the media and food industry, and we will support our network in the translation of evidence into action.
The Need for Salt Reduction
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the world and raised blood pressure from a systolic above 115 mmHg is one of the most important direct causes, accounting for more than 60 per cent (60%) of all strokes and approximately 50 per cent (50%) of all heart disease. The evidence strongly demonstrates that high salt intake is a major cause of elevated blood pressure and that the benefits of a modest reduction in salt intake are large. For instance, a reduction in salt intake of 6g/day through the fall in blood pressure that would occur would cause an approximate 24 per cent (24%) reduction in stroke and a 18 per cent (18%) reduction in coronary heart disease mortality.
Based on the evidence, governments and the WHO have recommended a reduction in salt intake from the current worldwide intake of 10-15g/day to a maximum of 5-6g/day. In most countries approximately 80 per cent (80%) of a person's salt intake comes from processed and catered foods, the salt content of which the consumer has no control over, often has no knowledge about and is usually very high. This accounts for why salt intake in most countries is so high, because it is passive, i.e. it is added to food without the consent and, very often, without the knowledge of consumers making it very difficult to avoid. The only way to reduce salt intake is by a slow reduction in the amount of salt in all foods where it has been added; therefore the onus is on the food industry to reduce the salt content of their products. Studies by the WHO have shown that reducing population salt intake by this approach is one of the most cost effective strategies for improving health. It also has the added benefit that it does not require a change in consumer behaviour.