In a ground-breaking move in March 2013, legislation to reduce salt (sodium) levels in certain foods was passed. South Africa was the first country globally to make this mandatory in such a wide range of foods. The legislation limits salt levels in some commonly consumed foods, such as: bread, breakfast cereals, margarines and fat spreads, savoury snacks, processed meats, soup and gravy powders and stock cubes.
A three year implementation period was granted to allow time for manufactures to experiment with reformulation and produce lower salt products that are still acceptable to South Africa consumers. So, from the end of June 2016 the new salt regulations came into force. The second set of lower levels comes into effect in 2019.
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Most South Africans consume between 7.8 g and 9.5 g salt per day – up to nearly double the recommended 5 g per day. Excess salt intake can raise blood pressure, thereby contributing to heart disease, strokes and kidney disease. Use the Salt Calculator from Unilever and the Heart & Stroke Foundation to find out how much salt you’re eating and where the salt in your diet is coming from.
Categories of food covered by the sodium reduction regulations:
Practical tips to cut down on salt:
Be Label Wise
There are many foods that are not included in the legislation – so it is still important to be label wise. Food labels list ingredients from biggest to smallest, so, if the words “salt” or “sodium” appear in the top few ingredients, the product contains a lot of salt – rather look for a better option!
Also look at the nutritional information table on the label for the amount of sodium that the food item contains. General guidelines:
More than 600 mg sodium (1.5 g salt) per 100 g ~~~> HIGH in salt – limit or avoid these.
Less than 120 mg sodium (0.3 g salt) per 100 g ~~~> LOW in salt – choose these more often.
To calculate the amount of salt in grams: multiply the sodium number by 2.5 and divide by 1000.
While legislation is an important step, it will not completely resolve our excess salt intake. South African consumers add on average 4 grams of salt to food at home. This alone nearly meets the World Health Organization’s recommended limit of 5 grams or 1 teaspoon per day.
As an alternative to salt, make use of marinades and seasonings to enhance the flavour of dishes, some tasty pairings to try:
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For more tips, resources and recipes, visit the Salt Watch website, a consumer education initiative supported by government and the food industry.
Use the Salt Calculator to find out how much salt you’re eating and where the salt in your diet is coming from.