A recent study examining national salt-reduction strategies around the world has concluded that such programs are “likely to be one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of improving public health.” Jacqueline Webster, et al., “Salt Reduction Initiatives Around the World,” Journal of Hypertension, June 2011. The study used existing reviews, literature and relevant Websites to identify 32 national salt-reduction initiatives, finding that “the majority of the activity was in Europe.” Twenty-six of the 32 strategies “were led by government, five by nongovernment, and one by industry,” and some were “multifaceted including food reformulation, consumer awareness initiatives and labeling actions.” Of the countries identified as having a salt-reduction strategy, (i) 27 “had maximum population salt intake targets, ranging from 5 to 8 g/person per day,” (ii) 28 “had some baseline data on salt consumption and 18 had data on sodium levels in foods,” (iii) 28 “were working with the food industry to reduce salt in foods,” (iv) “10 had front-of-pack labeling schemes,” (v) “28 had consumer awareness or behavior change programs,” and (vi) five “had demonstrated an impact, either on population salt consumption, salt levels in foods or consumer awareness.”

The authors noted, however, that “no country has achieved, or is likely to achieve, a significant fall in population salt consumption if the salt reduction program is restricted to consumer education, and uptake is left to consumer choice.” The study therefore concludes that “national salt reduction efforts must be delivered centrally though changes to the environment that make it easy for the population as a whole to consume less salt,” with a focus “on the food industry and reformulation of products towards lower salt with the goal being to reduce the salt content of every salt product progressively in small incremental steps.”