Patient Education Salt Reduction - Moving from Awareness to Action

Following the successful conclusion of Unilever’s first phase salt reduction strategy to reduce salt levels in foods. Unilever has recently embarked onto its ambitious second phase strategy towards further reducing salt levels across all global food brands by 2020. With the overall goal of having 75% of Unilever’s food products meet salt levels to enable intakes of 5g per day.



Unilever is working to achieve these targets through the continuous reformulation of high-sodium recipes. This is no easy task as salt reduction in recipes can be very challenging, for technological and taste reasons. An example of this can be seen in the sodium reduction of Unilever’s Knorrox cubes — a product in which salt formed a major flavour component.



To add flavour while still reducing salt, sodium was replaced with non-sodium flavour enhancers and sodium-containing flavour enhancers at low dosages. Additionally, enhancing flavours like herbs and spices were also used. Knorrox cubes are now available with less salt while still maintaining the same hearty flavour. Unilever also stocks an extensive herbs and spices range to help you add flavour to your food.



The unfortunate challenge of introducing lower salt content without good consumer education is that consumers may end up over-compensating by adding salt at the table or during cooking or eating. Approximately 40% of the salt South Africans consume is added at the table. Habitual consumption of excessive salt may seem harmless, but it is linked to several health risks that cause millions of premature deaths annually. A significant lowering in the current salt intake requires a shift in consumer behaviour.



In a strategic plan to reduce the prevalence of non-communicable diseases by reducing population salt intake, Unilever commissioned a mass media campaign to increase public awareness of the association between high salt intake, blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, focusing on the reduction of discretionary salt intake. Following the successful campaign, key findings showed a positive shift in behaviour towards considering and initiating reduced or low-salt consumption. In particular, adding salt while cooking and at the table occurred significantly less frequently.



To further help consumers slash salt intake The Heart and Stroke Foundation has these tips:



  • Remove the saltshaker from the dinner table.
  • Cut down on prepared and processed foods.
  • Eat more fresh or frozen vegetables and fruit.
  • Cook your meals at home.
  • When eating out, select meals lower in sodium.
  • Reduce the amount of salt added while cooking. Experiment with other seasonings like garlic, chilli, lemon juice, and herbs.
  • Reducing the size of holes in saltshakers could help as the use of table salt is often a habitual behaviour.
  • Check the nutrition table on food products and choose foods that have no, or low amounts of sodium/salt per serving. Packaged food products should have less than 15% of your recommended daily value. An entrée should have less than 30% of your recommended daily value.
  • If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, please speak to your doctor about the amount of sodium you should be consuming on a daily basis.


Despite the challenges, we are happy to announce that we are on track with our 2020 goal. Track our progress here.

References:

Bertram, M.Y., Steyn, K., Wentzel-Viljoen, E., Tollman, S. and Hofman, K.J., 2012. Reducing the sodium content of high-salt foods: effect on cardiovascular disease in South Africa. South African Medical Journal, 102(9), pp.743-745.



Dötsch-Klerk, M., Goossens, W.P., Meijer, G.W. and van Het Hof, K.H., 2015. Reducing salt in food; setting product-specific criteria aiming at a salt intake of 5 g per day. European journal of clinical nutrition, 69(7), p.799.



Heart & Stroke Foundation South Africa. 2017. Your body doesn't want the extra salt. Heart & Stroke Foundation South Africa. [online] Available at: http://www.heartfoundation.co.za/topical_articles/your-body-doesnt-want-the-extra-salt/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2019].