The health ministry aims to gradually reduce salt content in bread to 0.5% in the next three years, which means there can be a maximum of 5g of salt per kilo of bread.
The Government also wants to reduce trans-fat and oil content in baked goods to 5% and 2% respectively.
This was announced at an event organised by the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, which was attended by local bakeries and food producers.
Bread is staple
Bread is the leading staple food for Bahrain, and many areas in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, as reported in the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal.
The Bahrain Government last year announced its Ministerial Resolution No 28, on limiting the proportions of salt additive and trans-fat in bakery products to combat chronic non-communicable diseases.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average salt intake of > 12 g/day per person in the Eastern Mediterranean Region is higher than most other regions in the world.
There is a significant positive correlation between high dietary sodium intake and increase in blood pressure, which is a predisposing factor for non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
Therefore, reducing the amount of salt added to bread could be an effective measure for reducing salt intake in the country.
The WHO had suggested an upper limit for salt content in flat bread (pita, Arabic bread) at 0.5%, and less than 1% for other kind of breads.
Knead to know
The assistant undersecretary for public health of the Ministry of Health, Dr Mariam Al Hajri encouraged, “all relevant parties, food producers in particular, to work hand-in-hand with the ministry to achieve common goals.”
The ministry is focusing on mass produced breads that are distributed to markets. In Bahrain, approximately 70% of the bread are produced by the Bahrain Flour Mills Company.
A smaller proportion of bread sold in the market are produced by privately owned bakers.
The Ministry of Health, head of nutrition and public health consultant Dr Buthaina Ajnan said the long-term goal was to eliminate trans-fats in the next two years for all foods, whether locally produced or imported.
She added, “Food producers have mastered ways of putting more salts, sugars and trans-fats than they need.
“This has led to a noticeable increase in non-communicable chronic diseases, which is why we urgently need to take action to control these diseases by controlling the diet risk factors.
“The main challenge for all of these initiatives is the merchants themselves, they have to believe in the benefits of these reductions, they have to have the technology to make the replacements for trans-fats and salts which are there and can be cheap,” said Ajnan.
She pointed out that these changes would not lead to an increase in prices and in fact would reduce costs as fewer artificial ingredients would be used.
Elsewhere in the region
Salt reduction is ongoing in many countries in the region.
Kuwait, Qatar and Oman are gradually reducing the salt content of bread by 30%, 20% and 10 % respectively through public bread suppliers who provide the majority of bread in the country.
Iran, Morocco, Tunisia, and Lebanon are also implementing similar salt reduction programmes in bread.