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KUCHING, March 15: Limit salt intake to no more than one teaspoon per day, including hidden salts, in order to reduce the risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and kidney problems, which are the leading causes of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) deaths worldwide.
In a statement, Ministry of Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that an estimated 11 million deaths worldwide are linked to unhealthy diets, out of which three million of those are caused by high salt intake.
“Malaysians consume an average of 7.9 grammes or 1.6 teaspoons of salt per day, exceeding the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation of only five grammes or one teaspoon per day.
“An estimated 11 million deaths worldwide are linked to unhealthy diets and three million of those are caused by high salt intake,” he said.
The statement was released in conjunction with World Salt Awareness Week 2022 from March 14 to 20 with the theme ‘Tak Masin Tu Ok!’ yesterday.
Dr Noor Hisham explained that excessive salt intake raises blood pressure and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and kidney problems, which are the leading causes of NCDs deaths worldwide.
“In the majority of high-income countries, as well as some low-income and middle-income countries, salt intake is primarily derived from ultra-processed foods such as instant noodles, chicken nuggets, burgers, hotdogs, salted fish, salted eggs, canned foods, chips, and crackers.
“Therefore, one of the effective ways to reduce salt intake is through product reformulation to lower the salt content in food,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham urged food industry stakeholders to adhere to the Food Act 1983 and the Food (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulation 2020, which require mandatory labelling of salt content in food and beverage products.
He stated that the step will assist consumers in determining the nutritional content of a food or beverage product and will indirectly encourage people to purchase food which is healthier and more suited to their individual needs.
He cited a 2017 study of supermarkets in Malaysia which revealed that only half of food products listed salt content in their nutritional information.
“The Health Ministry will focus mainly on food industry players by providing education and continued assistance to ensure they are committed in reformulating their food and drink products to reduce the salt content,” he said.
Additionally, Malaysians are urged to heed the Ministry of Health’s call to action by adopting appropriate measures to limit daily salt intake.
Firstly, limit salt intake to not exceed one teaspoon a day overall, including hidden salts, to reduce the risk of NCD diseases.
Secondly, be aware of other sources of salt, such as sodium nitrate, sodium bicarbonate, and monosodium glutamate (MSG), and to choose products with less or no salt listed on labels, in addition to using the healthy choice logo (HCL).
Thirdly, ultra-processed food consumption should be reduced, with a focus on natural flavours such as garlic, turmeric, ginger, coriander, and lime in dishes, as well as a reduction in the use of salt, sauces, and flavourings such as MSG, ready-to-use pastes, stock cubes, or granules.
And lastly, eat frequently at home, and when eating outside, remember to order dishes with less salt as the new norm. — DayakDaily