A report of a meeting of the WHO Action Network on Salt Reduction in the Population in the European Region (ESAN) included an update on salt reduction work from Portugal. Below is a summary of this update:
Five objectives for salt reduction are in place in the country:
- SO1 - Implement a system for assessing population-wide salt intake while monitoring the supply of salt in the main food groups supplying salt to the Portuguese
- SO2 - Promote awareness and empower consumers towards a reduced salt intake
- SO3 - Promote the best way to provide labelling that is able to highlight the salt content of foods and identify low-salt products
- SO4 - Modify availability, particularly through the participation of the industry and the food chain in reformulating and supplying food products with lower salt content
- SO5 ‐ Monitor and assess the industry's involvement in the reformulation and supply of food products and also of the consumers' awareness, attitudes and behaviour.
In late 2015, associations of food producers and restaurants were invited to discussions on an agreement to reduce salt levels in certain food products. The agreement was finalised in 2016. An agreement was also reached with some of the major food manufacturers in the country to do their own evaluation of salt levels and to share results with the Directorate-General of Health.
In November, the Portugese Society of Hypertension published a report from an expert panel, which included WASH Chairman Graham MacGregor, on a proposed salt reduction strategy which follows on from the excellent work the Society has carried out over the past 10 years. A notable achievement of the Society is a reduction in population salt intake of 1.7g/day which was made possible by the law they had passed in 2009 which regulates the amount of salt in bread.
The panel recommended actions including reformulation of processed foods to reduce salt content by 15% over 5 years, implementation of a uniform nutrition labelling system and engagement in educational campaigns to children throughout their childhood into adulthood.
To view the full report, please click here.
In 2013, the WHO reviewed salt reduction activities across the European region and produced the report 'Mapping salt reduction initiatives in the WHO European Region'. Below is a summary of salt reduction activities in Portugal, as reported in this document:
In 2006, the Portuguese Society of Hypertension set up Portuguese Action against Salt and Hypertension. This was timely, as a pilot study in 2006, with a sample of almost 500 people, found that average salt intake in the sample was 12.3g per day. This was based on measurement of 24-hour urine sodium excretion.
A mass media campaign in 2006 aimed to raise awareness of the danger of a high salt intake in the population, and an educational campaign was targeted at food manufacturers, health authorities and policy-makers.
In August 2009, Parliament fixed an upper limit of 550 mg sodium (or 1.4g of salt) per 100 g bread. Nutritional labelling is mandatory for processed foods and must include information on salt content and percentage per product and portion. The Portuguese Economic and Food Safety Authority is responsible for monitoring the salt content in food and ensuring compliance with the law.
In 2012, the European Commission surveyed the salt reduction activities of member states and found that Portugal set a maximum salt level for bread in 2009, so all bread must contain ≤1.4g of salt per 100g of bread. The survey also found that in 2012 a value added tax on salty products was introduced.