Monitoring the reduction of sodium content of selected food items using label information in South Africa
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Background Hypertension is a growing concern, not only in South Africa, but worldwide. Sodium (salt) intake has been proven to have a major effect on the development of cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. It will therefore be beneficial to decrease the amount of sodium added to certain foodstuffs to relieve the burden of disease in the country and ultimately sustain a reduced consumption of sodium in the diet. Aim The aim of the study is to investigate if the food industries are making changes to the sodium content of foodstuffs over a 14-month period as listed in the Regulations (identified in R214:20 March 2013), before the first target date of June 2016. Study design This study is a descriptive, observational study. Methods Data collection took place at two well-known retailers over a 14-month period (March 2014 and May 2015). Photographs of foodstuffs were taken and data was statistically analysed regarding minimum to maximum ranges, mean and standard deviation of sodium per 100g as well as number and percentage of products below the target set for 2016 and 2019 respectively by the Department of Health (DoH). Results The sodium content of over 300 foodstuffs was collected. More than 60% (61.5%) of all the foods had already reached the 2016 target and an additional 23% had reached the 2019 target by May 2015. Breakfast cereals and porridges, uncured meat and soup powders showed good compliance of above 60% towards the new targets. Conclusions The DoH can be applauded for the great initiative undertaken to reduce sodium in the diet of all South Africans. The reduction of sodium in foodstuffs is currently slowly being implemented. However, the reduction will not go without challenges. Monitoring systems to ensure the sustained reduction of sodium content are important and should be implemented annually.
- Health Sciences