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Pinch is best

Avinesh Gopal
Monday, April 01, 2013

THE Ministry of Health's national salt reduction campaign, "Cook with less salt: A pinch is all you need" enters its fourth and final week today. And the target of health officials this week will be the faith-based groups. With salt being one of the contributing factors to many diseases, efforts are being made by the health authorities to tell people to use less salt to avoid diseases. Today, we look at the plans in place by the health authorities in Fiji to reduce salt intake and what you can do.

CONSUMER information through effective health communication strategies is an important way to reduce prevalence and incidence of major preventable premature deaths from non-communicable diseases.

As such, the World Health Organization encourages all countries, including Fiji, to reduce average salt intakes to less than five grams a day by setting salt reduction targets for processed food and through the development of national salt reduction strategies.

Fiji has a draft National Salt Strategic Plan 2012-2016, according to the Health Ministry's National Food and Nutrition Centre.

The plan addresses areas of governance and strategy development, baseline assessments together with monitoring and evaluation, actions to reduce population salt intakes and social marketing and advocacy activities.

It is envisaged that the NSSP will set the direction for salt reduction programs in the country.

The NFNC said in a statement that the strategic health communication plan aimed to decrease the level of salt consumption behavior in Fiji.

"Our people need to be fully informed and reminded of what they may already be aware of in relation to the link between salt, hypertension, stroke, disability and possible death," it said.

Also, it said, people should be reminded that there was a high incidence of hypertension in the country with most people not knowing that they have high blood pressure.

The NFNC said the Fiji National Nutrition Survey 2004 showed that 27 per cent of the sodium consumed was from salt added during cooking in homes or restaurants or when eating.

A NFNC technical report in 2010 on the impact of iron fortified flour showed the sodium consumption level at 40 per cent.

The centre warned there were long-term dangers for children and adults when too much salt was consumed

It said many people ignored reading the nutrition information on processed and canned foods. Labels in Fiji appear as nutrition information (per 100 grams) or nutrition facts (percentage daily value per serving).

What To Do/Know

Source: National Food And Nutrition Centre

* Find the "quantity per 100 gram" column and find "sodium" and read the sodium figure.

* Product should have less than 120 milligrams or less of sodium to be classified as low sodium.

* More than 600 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams is high and the product is considered a health hazardous food.

* If value for sodium is less than five per cent, then the product is regarded as having low sodium content while more than 20 per cent means that product is high in sodium.

* If it is a food you eat a lot, compare the nutrition information panels on different brands and choose the one with the lowest sodium per 100 grams.

* Cut the habit of showering food with salt - add only a pinch while cooking or none.

* Use natural spices like coriander leaves, mint leaves, curry leaves and other flavourable herbs.

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