Reducing salt intake: WHO/Europe initiatives

WHO

"Workshop on methodological aspects of health effect protection of salt reduction", Bilthoven, The Netherlands, November 2013.

In order to reduce the burden of chronic disease, the reduction of dietary salt intake has been a major priority of WHO/Europe in the last years. Close work with the Member States has been developed in order to devise appropriate policies that allow the engagement of stakeholders and the reformulation of the major sources of salt intake in the diet.

Over the past few months, the Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Programme organized and collaborated in a series of workshops with the goal to improve the collaborative efforts in this matter, both in terms of research and policy making. These initiatives gathered both public health and nutrition experts, public officials of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) programmes, as well as researchers and representatives from the food and marketing industries.

On 7-8 November 2013, the "Workshop on methodological aspects of health effect protection of salt reduction" was held in Bilthoven, The Netherlands, organized by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) with the collaboration of WHO/Europe. This workshop allowed methodological contributions to the field, as well as the development of models to calculate health outcomes and benefits associated to dietary salt reduction. Under these developments, a protocol and respective validation studies are ongoing and soon to be published.

Furthermore, the "Joint workshop on strategies to reduce salt or other selected nutrients in processed foods" was held in Lisbon, Portugal, in collaboration with the Directorate-General of Health on 25-26 November 2013. The workshop goals were to define methods to reformulate food products in terms of their salt content, and formulate strategies for collaboration with both industries and stakeholders to achieve an agreement on that matter.

Finally, on 10 December 2013, in Belgrade, Serbia, there was the "Joint multisectoral workshop on strategies to reduce salt intake and content of salt in foods". This initiative gathered public health and nutrition experts, public officials of NCD programmes, as well as researchers and representatives from the food and marketing industries. This workshop, beyond allowing the sharing of experiences and good practices, also provided recommendations and advice to the experts working in the industry sector.

This framework of action reveals the efforts of WHO/Europe and Member States on reducing the dietary salt intake in the Region, a cost-effective strategy that allows reducing the impact of an unhealthy diet on the well-being of the European population.