A global campaign, WASH - World Action on Salt and Health has been launched today against salt with the stated aim of preventing over 2.5 million deaths a year.
194 medical experts in 48 countries have come together in WASH to pressurize food companies into reducing dietary salt intake to prevent high blood pressure.
The launch of the campaign coincides with a World Health Organisation summit in Paris to discuss the role of salt in global health, which begins tomorrow.
According to WASH the health implications of increased salt intake are backed up by research from a wide range of sources. Many scientists have pointed to high salt intake as the contributory factor towards hypertension which in turn is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) that is responsible for almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe.
CVD has been reported to cost the EU economy an estimated €169bn ($202bn) per year.
The organization said, "It is estimated that reducing salt intake by 6g a day could lead to a 24 per cent reduction in deaths from strokes and an 18 per cent reduction in deaths from coronary heart disease, thus preventing approximately 2.6 million stroke and heart attack deaths each year worldwide."
In the UK, USA and Ireland over 80 per cent of salt intake comes from processed food, with 20 per cent of salt intake coming from meat and meat products, and about 35 per cent from cereal and cereal products.
WASH has therefore proposed that international food companies should reduce the salt content in processed foods and establish a uniform reduced salt level in each country in order to save lives.
It has been found that salt levels are also much higher in some countries than in others.
Naomi Campbell, WASH project coordinator said "Why should people in Colombia have to eat cereal packed full of salt if people in Italy can have the same product with a fraction of the salt content?"
"Why is it OK for British people to have more salt in their Kentucky Fried Chicken Twister than people living in France? These huge variations in salt contents show that the excuses of the food industry - that it is technically too difficult to reduce salt, and that customers will not accept the reductions - are rubbish."
However some such as Robert Speiser, director of EuSalt disagrees saying that he strongly disputes the need for salt intake restrictions.
According to Speiser's some regulatory bodies, such as the FSA in the UK, focus on certain scientific studies and neglect others.
Salt still remains a vitally important compound in food manufacturing, both in terms of taste and preservation. For instance in processed meat products salt improves the binding and textural properties of proteins, activates proteins to increase water-binding activity, helps with the formation of stable batters with fat, and also extends shelf-life with its anti-microbacterial effects.
WASH chairman as well as chairman of the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) Graham MacGregor, says that the evidence suggests that reducing salt intake is vital.
He said, "The experience of Finland, which has had a salt reduction program running since the late 1970s, shows that population-wide reduction of dietary salt leads to population-wide reductions in blood pressure and parallel reductions in deaths from stroke and heart disease."
"But if we are really going to save lives around the world we need to make sure that food producers make salt reductions in all their markets."
WASH stated that it would like to work with multinational food companies to ensure that the salt contents of their products are reduced.