Progress in reducing salt consumption in Turkey

Salt content in foods and the high average salt intake in Turkey have begun to decrease in response to a comprehensive salt reduction programme initiated by the Government in 2011. Excessive salt consumption is a risk factor for high blood pressure and thus an important contributing factor for cardiovascular disease.

Salt consumption estimates

Turkey is one of the few countries that has conducted a nationally representative 24-hour sodium urinary excretion study, which is considered the most reliable technique for estimating salt consumption. While average salt consumption in most countries of the WHO European Region is estimated to be 8–12 g/day, the first such survey in Turkey, SALTuk1 conducted in 2008, indicated that salt consumption was 18 g/day per adult inhabitant. The study was repeated in 2012, and the results pointed to a 16 per cent decrease to 15 g/day.

Government commitment

The Government programme includes the three major components recommended by WHO for reduction of salt intake: monitoring, major reformulation actions and awareness raising.

Successful steps already taken in Turkey include:

  • reduction of salt in bread and some processed foods like tomato pastes;
  • regulation against the sale of chips in school canteens since July 2011;
  • labelling regulations for food products.

Reduction of salt in cheese and olives is expected by the end of 2013.

Awareness raising activities

The following salt awareness activities were organized at national level by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock and Hacettepe University in Turkey leading up to World Health Day 2013, which focused this year on the causes and consequences of high blood pressure:

  • films on salt reduction for national TV;
  • "Warning about Salt Week", 1–7 Feb 2013, celebrated through various activities in all provinces;
  • "salt and health" Twitter chat with experts from the Ministry of Health in the week of 11–17 March 2013;
  • national lottery ticket with the message "Reduce salt – Maintain your health" on 9 February 2013.