Salt reduction

EuSalt: Why salt restrictions are not necessary

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt intake

Robert Speiser, director of EuSalt, tells FoodNavigator why he
strongly disputes the need for salt intake restriction guidelines.

He argues that consumers have been misled by regulatory guidelines based on ambiguous scientific evidence, and he is determined that the salt industry should have a voice in this ongoing debate.

"We are a salt-producing family, made up of 12 nations and 19 members,"​ Speiser told FoodNavigator shortly after the completion of EuSalt's AGM.

"EuSalt is a trade association that gets together to discuss common interests, meet colleagues and exchange information. EuSalt also gives the salt industry an external voice."

This need to be heard has certainly never been more pressing. Intense regulatory pressure in many Member States means that the salt industry has been under siege.

Speiser's concern is that much of this pressure is unfair, and is based on political rather than scientific concern. He argues that there is scientific evidence to suggest that reducing salt may not necessarily be in the interests of all consumers.

"I think that a lot of science has been neglected for political reasons. This is sad. There have been some studies published that have not been fully appreciated why?"

Speiser points to two recent studies that concluded that there was no need to reduce salt among healthy people. He said that he is astonished that some regulatory bodies, such as the FSA in the UK, have neglected to take into account these findings.

"The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the only official authority to propose a signposting initiative that says it is necessary to reduce salt,"​ he said. "This is panic. The scientific evidence for this doesn't exist."

Indeed, many scientific institutions that hold opinions different to EuSalt acknowledge that much is still unknown about the relationship between salt consumption and health.

"There are still areas where we lack knowledge or where interpretations of existing knowledge differ, and, in particular, whether it is appropriate to seek to encourage reduced salt intake for the whole population,"​ wrote the Institute of Food Science and Technology in an information statement published in July 2003.

This ambiguity, says Speiser, means that universal salt intake restriction guidelines are unworkable, and that salt intake should remain determined by the needs of the individual. Bernard Spitz from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium for example told a recent EuSalt conference that there was no evidence that a reduction in salt intake has any beneficial effect in the prevention or treatment of pre-eclampsia or any other outcomes, and that the consumption of salt during pregnancy should in his opinion therefore remain a matter of personal preference.

In addition, Speiser scotched rumours that the salt industry, the drinks industry and the pharmaceutical industry were united in some kind of global conspiracy. The theory goes that the salt industry pumps food full of salt, which has consumer grabbing for beverages and later medicine to deal with their salt-induced illnesses.

"Absolute nonsense,"​ said Speiser. "This is far from reality.

"The good news is that healthy people do not have to reduce salt. Even EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has issued an opinion on sodium that concluded that current scientific evidence doesnt fit together.

"In the end, it is not a question of one food or one ingredient, but a question of a balanced diet. In Germany for example, we have black bread which is highly nutritious, but which contains more salt than the sliced white bread you find in the UK. Now which is better for you?

"I don't think we need salt regulations. I think salt is a symbol for the right measurement. Too little or too much, food becomes unpalatable. It is all about moderation."

To hear professor Graham McGregor give the other side of the salt debate, click here​.

Related topics: Ingredients

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