Less Salt, More Health: Mexico’s Approach to Salt Awareness Week
Approximately 2.5 million deaths could be avoided each year if salt consumption was reduced globally, reports the World Health Organization (WHO) in recognition of the World Salt Awareness Week 2022 that will take place from Mar. 14-20. Adults should consume less than 5g of salt a day but in Mexico the average daily intake is between 7g and 9g.
Although sodium is necessary to maintain the human body hydrated and maintain blood’s pH, a high consumption of salt can put health at risk. Whichever the origin of the salt is, sodium can cause heart diseases, strokes and hypertension, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In Mexico, 25 percent of the population suffers from hypertension and 150,000 people die annually from heart attacks.
Most processed foods in Mexico are high in sodium when compared with international standards, according to the Nutrition and Health Research Center. Some products that despite not having a salty flavor have high levels of sodium, such as cereal, soda and white bread, warns the Ministry of Health (SSA).
Globally, the high consumption of salt is a public health problem, leading the WHO to urge governments to lower salt consumption among their populations through its “SHAKE” program. SHAKE invites countries to implement strategies based on surveillance, the reduction of salt across the food supply, accurate labelling and healthy eating environments. According to WHO, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are the countries with the highest salt consumption whereas Jamaica, Burundi and Comoros report the lowest salt intake.
To reduce sodium intake, Mexico implemented labelling strategies to raise awareness on what consumers are choosing to eat. According to SHAKE, when making food choices attention to nutrition labels lasts between 25-100 milliseconds, making it critical for a message to be understood immediately. The modification to the NOM-051-SCFI/SSA-2010 forces food producers to mark their products with the “Excess of sodium” official label when they contain 350mg of sodium per 100ml or more. However, the Federal Consumer Attorney's Office (PROFECO), reported that not all products in the market have the correct information of its real salt content, such as certain brands of popcorn and cookies.
In observance of the World Salt Awareness Week 2022, the SSA promoted the “Que no te echen la sal” campaign to raise awareness on salt consumption in Mexico. The campaign’s motto “Less Salt, More Health” advises the population to use natural condiments in food and prioritize natural over processed food.