Frequently asked questions about salt in the WHO European Region

What are the risks of high salt consumption?

Scientific evidence has revealed that it is a major factor in increasing risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as high blood pressure, throughout the European Region. High blood pressure is strongly associated with cardiovascular diseases and may also be linked to other NCDs, such as renal disease.

What foods should I avoid?

  • Processed foods, such as ready-to-eat meals and snacks, have been identified as some of the top sources of salt intake in the WHO European Region, but bread and dairy products such as cheese should also be taken into account.
  • Foods from fast-food chains and restaurants also are recognized as being high in salt, as well as fats and sugars.

What is the recommended daily intake of salt for adults?

  • WHO recommends an intake of less than 5 g per day (the equivalent of approximately 1 teaspoon of salt per day) to avoid cardiovascular diseases.
  • Health and food safety authorities agree that most Europeans’ daily intake (about 8–11 g) far exceeds the recommended level.

What is the maximum acceptable daily salt intake for children?

  • For children aged 0–9 months, no salt should be added to food.
  • For children aged 18 months to 3 years, salt intake should be no more than 2 g per day.
  • For children aged 7–10 years, salt intake should be no more than 5 g per day.

How much control do I have over my salt intake?

In Europe, about 70–75% of all salt consumed is hidden in processed foods or other products of the food industry, which are not under the consumer’s control. People add the remaining 25–30% at the table.

What action is being taken in the European Region to control high salt intake?

  • WHO/Europe has listed salt reduction as one of the five priority interventions in the new Action Plan for the Implementation of the European Strategy on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (2012–2016).
  • The WHO European Action Plan for Food and Nutrition Policy 2007–2012 includes promoting the reformulation of mainstream food products to reduce salt and ensure the availability of healthier options.
  • WHO/Europe supports the European salt action network, which consists of 23 Member States in the Region, led by the United Kingdom. The network enables countries to share their experience with salt-reduction efforts, and to provide information and technical expertise.

What is salt’s role in preventing iodine deficiency disorder?

  • Salt iodization remains an important strategy for eliminating iodine deficiency, as salt is widely consumed and its production is easy to monitor, and iodization does not affect its sensorial characteristics and is relatively inexpensive.
  • Every European country endorsed the goal of eliminating iodine deficiency at the 1992 World Health Assembly. Although, great progress has been made globally since that time, the European Region has the lowest coverage of salt iodization of all WHO regions.