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​​Joburgers urged to take food with just a pinch of salt
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Cut down on the salt in your meals and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. This is the key message as Joburg joins the rest of the world in observing World Salt Awareness Week from 16 to 22 March.
The aim is to encourage communities to avoid adding salt and spices when cooking meals and to break the habit of adding salt to food during meal times.

“A reduction in salt intake leads to lower blood pressure and, eventually, to a lower incidence of strokes and heart attacks,” says the Health and Social Development Member of the Mayoral Committee, Councillor Nonceba Molwele. She is leading the City’s campaign to create a greater awareness about the need to switch to lower-salt diets.

The focus this year is on salt and children. Like adults, children consume more salt than the maximum recommendation. Simple measures need to be taken to help reduce salt intake and therefore reduce the number of people suffering from cardiovascular disease. Children are considered a vulnerable group in society often with little influence on or involvement in what they eat.

Public Health Deputy Director, Elionora Lebethe, says Johannesburg is actively implementing legislation signed by Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, in 2013 to make salt reduction in the food industry mandatory.

Food suppliers and manufacturers are required to reduce the amount of salt used in the production of bread, breakfast cereals, margarines, savoury snacks, dry soup and processed meat. Initial reductions will be introduced in 2016 with further measures enforced from 2018.

MMC Molwele says a report published by Statistics SA in 2012 shows that diseases associated with a high salt content in diet are among the leading causes of death in the City. Among these conditions are hypertension (ranked 10th), cerebrovascular disease (5th), and Ischaemic heart disease (7th).

“We want to create awareness about the dangers of a high salt intake… and change behaviour,” she says.

According to Lebethe, studies show that reduced blood pressure resulting from a lower salt intake can prevent up to 2.5 million deaths world-wide every year. The SA Heart and Stroke Foundation says the average South African consumes up to 11 grams of salt a day – which is double the recommended amount.

A reduced salt intake should form part of healthy lifestyle choices and be accompanied by regular physical activities, weight control, good nutrition and no smoking. A combination of these activities will prevent and control most chronic lifestyle diseases, including hypertension, heart diseases, strokes and many forms of cancer.

Lebethe said the health guideline is not to consume more than 5 grams of salt per person, per day. Processed food already contains added salt which means that the sprinkling of extra salt during meal preparation or at the tables, result in consumers exceeding the safety guidelines.