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World Action on Salt. Sugar & Health

WHO Action Network on Salt Reduction in the Population in the European Region (ESAN)

The European Salt Action Network (ESAN) was established by the WHO and the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) to harmonise salt reduction programmes in EU countries.  

The main aims and objectives of ESAN are to:

  • establish, within the WHO European Region, a network of countries committed to reducing salt intake and building international action on salt reduction;
  • provide opportunities for information exchange on the implementation of salt-reduction strategies, as well as on related activities and achievements;
  • provide opportunities for information exchange on technological progress and developmental processes related to salt reduction; and
  • develop guidance for Member States wishing to develop salt-reduction strategies and provide technical expertise on the different aspects of a salt-reduction strategy, such as setting salt targets, monitoring levels of salt intake and salt in products, and communicating with the public


Switzerland leads the network of 23 countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. WHO/Europe and the European Commission participate as observers. To join the network, countries must demonstrate that they are currently working on salt reduction or are planning to do so, and that its representatives work for government or have been nominated by government.

Reducing salt intake is a crucial factor in lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in the WHO European Region. In many countries in the region, more than two thirds of all salt consumed is hidden in processed foods and snacks or food products (such as bread and cheese). In addition, some fast food chains and other restaurants are key suppliers of foods high in salt as well as fats and sugars.  This means that only approximately 20% of salt intake is under the control of the consumer: many people are unaware of how much salt they are consuming, and are not able to cut their salt intake.

Please click here to view the WHO/Europe report “Mapping salt reduction initiatives in the WHO European Region”, an overview of current initiatives in European countries. Several countries have already reaped significant results from measures including food and product labelling, consumer education, updating of national dietary guidelines and negotiating with food manufacturers to reduce the salt content in processed foods.

The network met in Lisbon, Portugal on 20-21 April 2016. This meeting found that no European country is on track to meet a 30% reduction in salt intake by 2025 as, although many countries have been taking policy action, progress is uneven and insufficient. To view a report of this meeting, please click here.

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