Meeting of the WHO Action Network on Salt Reduction in the Population in the European Region (ESAN). Meeting Report (2017)



WHO has identified cutting salt intakes as a priority for preventing non-communicable diseases and, globally, countries have already committed to cut salt intakes by 30% between 2010 and 2025. To help facilitate progress in reducing salt intakes, the WHO Action Network on Salt Reduction in the Population in the European Region (ESAN) was established in 2007. The network—which now consists of more than 20 WHO European Region Member States—met in Dublin, Ireland on 9-10 May 2017.

There has been progress in the Region and the salt reduction efforts of many Member States have demonstrated that real and sizeable reductions in salt levels across a range of foods is possible. Tracking the impact on dietary intakes is more difficult, and, although some countries have also been able to demonstrate a drop in average salt intakes, this has not always been possible.

It is clear that progress is uneven and insufficient—no European country is currently on track to meet the global target—and further progress is needed. This may require more use of regulation and mandatory, rather than voluntary, salt contents for particular foods. In addition, there is a role for country-specific intermediate goals to drive forward progress towards the longer-term, global goal. Innovative front-of pack nutrition labelling shows promise for changing consumer purchases and, potentially, for driving reformulation. Better data are needed to monitor changes in both salt levels and intakes. There is great interest in developing harmonized monitoring of salt in some foods as a tool for both recording progress and highlighting where greater gains are possible.