Ireland Salt Action Summary

2016

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland have produced a report ‘Monitoring of Sodium and Potassium in Processed Foods (2003 to 2016)’ which states that average salt intake in men is 11.1g per day and in women is 8.5g per day.

Between 2003 and 2016, processed meats, such as hams and sausages were found to have significant reductions in salt. For example, the salt content of bacon rashers reduced by 27% in the time period. Cornflake style cereals were also 63% less salty in 2016 than 2003, and the salt content of ciabatta, panini and pitta was cut by 47%.

To view the full report, please click here.

2011

A researcher from University College Cork found that between 1997-1999 and 2008-2010, the Irish population reduced their consumption of bread by 17% which in turn reduced their salt intake from bread to 1.5g per day (down from 2.1g per day). They also increased their intake of cereal products by 63% and rice and pasta by 51%.

September 2010

Current salt targets in Ireland:

  • Uncured Cooked Meat Products e.g. typically poultry and some beef products: 600mg Na per/100g
  • Cured Uncooked Meat Products e.g. typically bacon and rashers: 1300mg Na per/100g (Maximum value)
  • Black & White Puddings: 600mg Na per/100g
  • Sausages e.g. pork, beef and other varieties: 550mg Na per/100g
  • Burgers e.g. raw, fresh and frozen: 400mg Na per/100g
  • White and Wholemeal Based Recipes (excludes Soda Breads): 450mg Na/per 100g (Average value)

August 2010

A range of stakeholders in Ireland are working to reduce the population’s salt intake.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland: Since 2003, the FSAI has operated a voluntary programme of salt reduction with the food industry (manufacturers, retailers, caterers, etc) to achieve gradual, sustained and universal reductions in the salt content of processed and prepared foods. The long term goal of this programme is to reduce the average population intake of salt from 10 grams (g) a day to 6g a day through partnership with the food industry and State bodies charged with communicating the salt and health message to consumers. Significant reductions across a range of product categories have been achieved in particular in bread, processed meats and cereal products.

The Food Industry has addressed the voluntary agreements with FSAI achieving reductions, for example in bread, cereals and processed meats to date with some manufacturers targeting areas such as cheese, yellow fat spreads and biscuits.

safefood has had a number of campaigns outlining the need to reduce salt intake aimed at the general public, employees and caterers in the workplace setting. The campaigns were run in 2006 and 2009 during which registered workplace companies displayed information materials including posters, tray-liners and table tent cards. Plans for a 2010 workplace campaign are being developed. safefood has funded analysis of urinary sodium levels, results of which will be available shortly. These data will provide a good estimate of dietary salt intake in Ireland.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is working to establish a healthy food procurement policy with the major suppliers of bread and other foods to reduce salt content. Use of procurement to date has achieved 10% lower salt bread in one region – 500,000 loaves eaten by patients and staff each year.

The Irish Heart Foundation has had a number of initiatives aimed at salt awareness

  • Lent support to Safefood’s salt awareness campaigns in the workplace in 2006 and 2009
  • Ongoing promotion of healthy catering practices around salt via health promotion programmes: Happy Heart Healthy Eating Award (workplaces) and Happy Heart Catering Award (restaurants, pubs, cafes, hotels)

The Department of Health and Children have partnered with the Irish Heart Foundation on a number of salt initiatives and have a specific salt reduction population goal in national guidelines of 6 grams /day.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 2006 awarded funding of over €2 million to help reduce salt levels in food. Three research projects under the Food Institutional Research Measure:

  • Reduced salt breads for enhanced health
  • Reformulation of reduced sodium chilled ready meals
  • Development of low sodium solutions for snack food sector

The Public Analyst Laboratories have a statutory role in testing food for compliance with relevant legislation and guidelines. The laboratories have a service contract with the FSAI and the HSE to provide an analytic service for food samples collected by Environmental Health Officers from retailers around the country.

The Catering Management Association of Ireland has undertaken a programme of awareness raising and promotion of alternatives to salt in cooking.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland regularly includes articles on salt in its newsletter to members.

The Consumer Association of Ireland carries out research on the nutritional content of various food categories.

March 2009

Ireland has been driving down salt levels using the UK’s Food Standard Agency’s salt reduction model, and has made significant reductions.  Seventy-two companies have agreed to self-report, with several manufacturers reporting their products to be in line with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s salt targets.  Further reductions can be made via a coordinate approach and increased investment across Europe.

19 September 2007

Positive Update on National Programme to Reduce Salt – More Effort Needed to Protect Consumer Health says FSAI

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) announced progress on its salt reduction programme with the food industry, highlighting specific developments by food manufacturers including meat products; bread; soups and sauces; breakfast cereals; snack foods and caterers.

It states that strong progress has been made across the Irish food industry to reduce the level of salt in manufactured and prepared foods, but that substantial further efforts would be required to reduce average daily salt intake by Irish adults to 6 grams (or one teaspoon) by 2010. The FSAI stresses that recent labelling laws governing claims on salt content in foods will be beneficial for consumers, as manufacturers will have to abide to minimum salt levels to be able to state 'low salt', 'very low salt' or 'salt free' on packaging. They will also have to make reductions of more than 25% in salt before they can claim that their product has reduced salt content.

In 2007, there are 75 food business and their representative groups participating in the FSAI salt reduction programme (compared with 52 in 2005). The full report detailing each participant's salt reductions is published on the FSAI website. (http://www.fsai.ie/industry/salt/salt2.asp - LINK IS BROKEN)

According to Dr Wayne Anderson, Chief Specialist Food Science, FSAI, “Major catering wholesale suppliers should be implementing salt reduction programmes that are similar to those outlined by the retail multiples. Whilst support is strong in some wholesalers, a wider more sustained effort is needed if caterers are to provide lower salt foods for consumers eating out,” he says. “We would like to see more food businesses getting involved in salt reduction and we would like to see more stretching targets adopted, particularly in bread and meat products.”

Full report: (http://www.fsai.ie/news/press/pr_07/pr20070919.asp - LINK IS BROKEN)

Favourable coverage has been received for the report by the Irish media:

Irish Examiner: http://archives.tcm.ie/irishexaminer/2005/09/08/story943816221.asp

The Irish Times: (http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2007/0919/breaking56.htm - LINK IS BROKEN)

2006

In 2006, Safefood launched Ready Salted – Six Weeks to Change Your Tastebuds which was primarily aimed at employees and caterers in the workplace setting. The campaign ran for six weeks during which registered companies displayed information materials including posters, tray-liners and table tent cards.

The Irish Heart Foundation is due to launch a new awareness campaign on blood pressure. This will provide another opportunity to get the messages about salt reduction across.

In 2005 the Scientific Committee and the Nutrition Subcommittee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), published "Salt and Health: Review of the Scientific Evidence and Recommendations for Public Policy in Ireland". The Committee found that the balance of evidence favoured a link between high salt intake and raised blood pressure. It was estimated that a 6g reduction in the population average intake of salt could result in a reduction in stroke deaths of approximately 600 per year in Ireland and a reduction in deaths from ischaemic heart disease of approximately 1,100 per year.

The FSAI has a long term goal to reduce the average population intake of salt from 10g a day to 6g a day by 2010 through partnership with the food industry and State bodies charged with communicating the salt and health message to consumers. Salt reduction undertakings by the food industry are posted on the FSAI website (http://www.fsai.ie/industry/salt/salt2.asp - LINK IS BROKEN). In brief, some of the achievements that have been made include, a 11% reduction in the salt content of breakfast cereals since 2003 and a 10% reduction in the salt content of bread, soups and sauces since 2004.

There have been a number of campaigns targeted at the public to raise awareness about the harmful effects of salt on health. The Irish Heart Foundation ran an awareness-raising campaign in 2004 under the banner of Irish Heart Week, with the theme "Time to cut down on salt?". In May 2005, Safefood the Food Safety Promotion Board launched a campaign outlining the need to reduce salt intake, "How much salt is good for you?"  Both campaigns highlighted the main sources of salt in the Irish diet and practical ways to choose a low-salt healthy diet. The key message in both campaigns was that adults should consume no more than 6 grams/day.