The new call for industry to reduce levels of salt in foods comes on the back of a recent assessment that found the majority of the German population consume too much salt.
In a statement, the BfR said that high salt consumption can drive up blood pressure and supports the development of cardiovascular diseases.
“In many people, reducing salt intake can lower blood pressure,”it said.
“However, what is important is not so much how often we use the salt shaker, but rather the consumption of bread, dairy products (e.g. cheese), meat products and sausages,”warned the agency – who are responsible for preparing expert opinions on food safety for the German Government.
The institute said that against the background that almost half of German adults (44% of women and 51% of men) have elevated blood pressure,“the BfR recommends that the salt content in processed foods be reduced.”
According to the joint assessment of the BfR, the Max Rubner Institute (MRI) and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the majority of the German population consume too much salt:“Especially young men, children and adolescents consume too much salt,”said the BfR.
The group said that since there is a connection between such high salt intake and hypertension, it is recommended to reduce salt intake in the population.
“However, a diet low in salt is not easy to implement, because almost all processed foods contain salt,”said the BfR statement.
“A recommendation to consumers to eat less processed foods is hardly realisable, since they constitute an inherent part of the diet in Germany … For this reason, the BfR recommends that the salt content in processed foods is reduced.”
Sodium is a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function. However the average daily salt consumption in the western world (between 10 and 12 grams) vastly exceeds maximum recommendations from WHO/FAO of 5 grams per day.
Such high intakes of dietary sodium have been linked to negative health impacts, including the development of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and other health problems.
In countries like the UK, Ireland, the USA, and other industrialized countries, over 80% of salt intake comes from processed food – meaning many do not realise they are consuming such high quantities. Because of this, reducing the sodium content in food products has become a major issue for the processed-food sector.
The process of reducing salt levels in foods is an ongoing process within the industry, with many now acknowledging that high sodium levels in some foods is a major issue for the industry.
However, the reduction of salt in processed foods is a major challenge because in addition to salts role as a flavour enhancer, the food industry has historically added salt (sodium chloride) to foods to enhance shelf life, modify flavour, enhance functionality, and to control fermentation.
Experts in the area have previously noted“aclear need for the food industryto identify technical routes toenable functionality to be modified, flavour to be enhanced, and shelf life to be preserved, whilstreducing the concentration of sodium salts and maintaining theconsumer experience.”