Sample Image WHO organized a forum and a technical meeting on Reducing Salt Intake in Populations, from 5 to 7 October 2006 in Paris, France. The Forum reviewed the current evidence base on a wide range of topics, including initiatives, policies and programs aimed at reducing salt intake in the population, methods for measuring salt intake, main contributors to salt consumption and the impact of lowering salt intake on health care spending. Stakeholders involved in the development and implementation of salt reduction policies presented their activities and participated in the forum discussions.

 Executive Summary

As part of the implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health (DPAS), WHO organized a Forum and Technical Meeting entitled "Reducing Salt intake in Populations". The overall objective was to develop recommendations for Member States and other stakeholders on interventions to reduce population-wide salt intake with the long term goal of preventing chronic diseases. The French Ministry of Health and the French Food Safety Agency kindly supported both the Forum and the Technical Meeting.

The main objectives of the Forum were to review and discuss:

  • the current state of knowledge regarding the link between excessive salt consumption and health;
  • initiatives, policies and programmes aiming at reducing population-wide salt intake;
  • the effectiveness and costs of population interventions to reduce salt intake, and how to evaluate and monitor dietary salt intake;
  • the main contributors to salt consumption and the role of fortified salt in iodine deficiency prevention.

Forum participants included academics, technical staff from ministries of health and representatives from food manufacturers, the catering industry, professional associations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (Annex II). The presentations and the conclusions of the forum are outlined in the third part of this report.

 The participants at the Technical Meeting included academics, technical staff from ministries of health and WHO staff. Having considered the information presented during the Forum, the Technical Meeting participants discussed the current rationale to be considered in the formulation of recommendations to different stakeholders; guiding principles for the development of policies aiming at salt-intake reduction; and specific issues to consider at national and international levels when implementing these policies. Based on the outcome of these discussions, the participants drafted a series of recommendations to several groups of stakeholders on possible measures which, when implemented, would facilitate the reduction of population-wide salt intake.

The participants of the Technical Meeting agreed that:

  • There is strong evidence of the link between excessive salt consumption and several chronic diseases.
  • Interventions to reduce population-wide salt intake have been shown repeatedly to be highly cost-effective, hence the urgency to implement strategies/policies/programmes tackling the reduction of dietary salt intake.
  • Alternative vehicles to salt for micronutrient fortification should be explored and the current recommended levels of salt iodization need to be revised.
  • The interaction with food manufacturers is fundamental to the success of salt reduction strategies. Multinational food industries should be encouraged to harmonize the salt content of their products according to the lowest threshold possible to avoid unnecessary variations in salt content of the same food product commercialized in different countries.

The working group discussions and the recommendations from the Technical Meeting are detailed in part four of this report.

This report will constitute a tool to be used by WHO, Member States and other stakeholders when developing and implementing policies aimed at the population-wide reduction of salt intake.