New safefood research reveals the majority of the Irish population are consuming too much salt

Vast majority of adults (86% of men, 67% women) consuming in excess of the current daily salt intake target

November 4, 2010. safefood today announced the findings of new in-depth research into the dietary salt intake of the Irish population at a conference in Cork. The research study, commissioned by safefood, is the most extensive of its kind to date in the adult Irish population.

The aim of the study was to provide accurate and well-validated estimates of dietary salt intake in the Irish population. It found that dietary salt intake in the Irish population remains unacceptably high, with an overwhelming majority of the ROI population (86% of men and 67% of women) consuming salt at levels well in excess of the current 6 grams per day target as advocated by health professionals. As well as highlighting the alarmingly high rate of salt intake in Irish men in particular, the research also noted that there had been no evidence of a decline in salt intake in the Irish population over the last two decades.

Commenting on the research findings, Dr. Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said “High dietary salt intake can have serious health consequences and is strongly associated with high blood pressure and the pain and suffering related to stroke and cardiac disease. These high salt intakes are also associated with obesity in men and women. The findings mean that consumers, especially men, need to cut down on their salt intake.

“There is a misconception that salt intake is related to the salt added at the table but the majority of salt in the diet is ‘hidden’ in that it comes from processed foods. Efforts have been made by parts of the food industry to reduce salt levels, however, Irish people are consuming higher quantities of foods with salt in their diet. I would advise that we need to choose lower salt options – less processed foods and meats and lower salt bread and breakfast cereals.”

Professor Ivan Perry, University College Cork added “We now have good scientific evidence that if we can work successfully with the food industry to reduce the amount of salt added to common food items, we have the potential to prevent hundreds of deaths from cardiovascular disease in Ireland each year. Effective salt reduction would also prevent an even larger number of non-fatal heart attacks and strokes in Ireland each year with substantial savings in terms of human suffering and health service costs.

In April this year, the US Institute of Medicine recommended in a landmark report on salt and health that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should set a mandatory, national standard for the salt content of foods. It was further suggested that the FDA should modify the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status of salt added to processed foods”.

To coincide with the new research, safefood is launching a workplace salt awareness campaign across the island of Ireland on Monday, 15 November. The campaign is designed to draw attention to the hidden salt in processed foods as well as providing advice on lower salt alternatives through campaign materials including posters, table tent cards and consumer information pieces.

For further information, visit www.safefood.eu or call the safefood helpline on 1850 40 45 67 / 0800 085 1683.

The research project was led by Professor Ivan Perry and Dr Gemma Browne, working with a research team in the Dept of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCC and the Health Research Board Centre for Health & Diet Research.

Researchers in Phase 1 looked at existing SLAN 07 nutritional data and linked random (or spot) urine analysis from the SLAN study participants. Participants in phase 2 undertook 24 hour urine collection and analysis.

This new research is considered the gold standard in estimating dietary salt intake in the population.

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For further information please contact

Susie Cunningham / Cliodhna Lamont, WHPR

Telephone: 01 669 0030 / 087 8505055 (Susie) and 087 9250874 (Cliodhna)

Email: susie.cunningham@ogilvy.com and cliodhna.lamont@ogilvy.com

Dermot Moriarty, safefood, Telephone: 01 448 0600 / mobile 086 381 1034