Dutch salt survey shows industry is failing on overall reduction targets
The survey (in Dutch), conducted last year by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) but published yesterday, found salt intake to be “well above” the maximum recommended level of 6 g per day.
Half of the men surveyed consumed more than 9.7 g per day while half of the women consumed over 7.4 g per day.
A comparison with the results from previous surveys carried out in 2006 and 2010 show that levels have not changed in a statistically significant way.
This is despite a 2014 reformulation programme - the Agreement on Product Improvement - which will run until 2020 and aims to improve the nation's health by cutting salt, sugar and fat levels across a range of products.
The agreement, signed by the Federation of the Dutch Food Industry (FNLI), the Dutch Food Retail Organisation (CBL) and the Ministry of Health as well as catering associations, is monitored by RIVM based, in part, on industry-reported compliance.
“One of the components of the agreement is that in 2020 it should be possible for the consumer to comply the directive of 6 g per day when you eat according to the Guidelines Nutrition Health. In this study we saw yet this has not led to a demonstrable impact on the salt intake,” said the RIVM report.
Success story for bread
However, there have been some successes. Industry has successfully cut the salt content in bread and processed vegetables - salt content in processed vegetables and pulses has fallen 28% and 54% respectively - but it has risen in sauces.
Between 2011 and 2015 the salt content of Gouda cheese decreased overall but there were big differences in salt content across types of cheese.
RIVM said it would continue to monitor salt intake in the context of this product improvement agreement, adding there were still “considerable steps” to make.
"We hope that the results of the survey encourages the industry to confront the issue of product improvement rapidly," a spokesperson for the Netherlands Nutrition Centre (Voeding Centrum) told us.
A total of 289 people aged between 19 and 70 years old took part in RIVM's survey, with data collected using urine samples and diet questionnaires.
It also looked at iodine and potassium intake.
A 2011 study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that the same Dutch healthy policy makers working to reduce salt intake in the country were exceeding recommended levels by eating meals in their work canteen.
Well over half of those surveyed (63%) clocked up 15.4 g a day, with some exceeding the recommended daily 6 g in a single meal.
Voeding Centrum has an online ‘Eat Metre’ which allows consumers to keep a food diary and calculates if they are meeting their own nutritional needs.
So far 700,000 consumers have used it.