Food

FG moves to regulate sodium in packaged foods

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire

Published 13 November 2021

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has disclosed the Federal Government’s plans to regulate sodium consumption by Nigerians through packaged foods.

Ehanire stated this at the first multi-sectoral stakeholders’ meeting of Nigeria’s Sodium Reduction Study, jointly organised by National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control and the University of Abuja.

Represented by the Director, Public Health in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Alex Oko, the minister said the framework would help in reducing morbidity and mortality of incidence by instituting cost-effective policies and social interventions that would interface behaviours and lifestyle changes.

It would also reduce modifiable risk factors for the prioritised Non-Communicable Diseases within health in all policies approach.

She said that some of the objectives of the NCDs Multi-sectorial Action Plan include promoting a healthy lifestyle and diet, as well as reducing salt intake through the reformulation of processed food products to contain less salt.

“The Non-Communicable Diseases Multi-sectoral Action Plan which is an alignment with WHO global NCDs action plan as well as the WHO ‘SHAKE’ technical package for salt reduction.

“The implementation of the plan aims to achieve specific national subjects as an aspect of the global NCDs goal and SDGs to achieve among other things as an effective reduction in mean population in case of salt, and sodium, which means two grammes per day by 2025 through regulation and reformulation of processed food products to contain less salt,” she said.

Also speaking, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Abuja, Prof Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, said the current research on sodium consumption (salt consumption) is so crucial to the ability to live a good life.

“People think salt is sweet. In my place where I come from, we regard salt as the opposite of bitterness, but we are being told here that if you take too much salt, you risk hypertension, your kidney and different kinds of crisis.

“So, it is really about knowledge and our ability to know what it is we have to eat, and our ability to be able to afford and enforce this knowledge that we have.

“I call on the Nigerian government especially the NAFDAC that that is part of this to not shy away from making policies to help our people.

Earlier, the Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, said the objectives of the meeting are to present the preliminary findings of the first phase of the project which involved surveys carried out in the Federal Capital Territory, Ogun and Kano States, and to discuss potential strategies to scale up implementation of the salt reduction activities.

“The purpose of this meeting is to increase the awareness of the positive impact of sodium salt reduction on health in the food industry, amongst the policymakers, consumers and other stakeholders; set the regulatory agenda of scaled-up awareness on the risk of cardiovascular problems associated with high salt intake and or high salt usage amongst NAFDAC Stakeholders.

“Sodium is mainly consumed as salt (sodium chloride) which in the diet can come from processed foods, either because they contain large amounts of salt (such as ready meals, processed meats like bacon, Corn beef, “Suya”, cheese, salty snack foods and instant noodles, among others, or because they are consumed frequently in large amounts (such as bread and processed cereal products).

“Salt is also added to food during cooking (bouillon and stock cubes) or at the table (soy sauce, chilli sauce, fish sauce and table salt). Habitual consumption of excess salt may seem harmless, but it is linked to several non-communicable diseases which are prevalent in Nigeria.

“Based on the outcomes of this study NAFDAC will be ready to do more with the collaboration of our stakeholders in the interest of safeguarding the public health. While NAFDAC is continuously making efforts using the above mechanisms to reduce the salt intake in the population, there is a need for strengthened and continued collaboration amongst relevant stakeholders including government and non-state actors in achieving the set target by WHO in salt intake reduction by 2025,” she said.

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