Norway wants to cut salt intake by 15% in three years

Norway wants to cut salt intake by 15% in three years

Norway has outlined a bid to cut salt consumption by 15% by 2018, with the country's government and manufacturers including Orkla and Nortura announcing plans to work on the issue.

Norwegian consumers eat twice as much salt as recommended, the Norwegian Directorate of Health, which pointed to the link between too high salt consumption, blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

The directorate, an agency of the country's Ministry of Health and Care Services, said there had been an "historic agreement" struck between the government and industry, which would work on raising awareness of how eating less salt improves public health and on cutting the amount of the ingredient in processed foods.

It said "only 10%" of the salt consumers eat comes from the ingredient being added to food.

"A reduction in salt use at home will have positive effects, particularly because the need for a salty taste is learned and consequently something one can get used to. But the major effect is not achieved by each pinch of salt on an egg. Seventy to eighty per cent of salt intake comes from the processed foods industry and food eaten in restaurants," the directorate's Bjørn Guldvog said. "A small reduction in the salt content in the food we buy or get served could make a big difference to the health of the population.

Orkla, the Nordic food giant that sells foods including pizza and snacks, was one of the companies to sign the agreement. It said it would look to develop products with a lower salt content, while making "visible" its moves to lower the level of the ingredient in its foods.

"Orkla companies are working systematically to reduce the content of salt, sugar and saturated fats in our household favourites," an Orkla spokesperson said.

Norway-based meat products group Nortura would be "best-in-class" on the issue, the company's CEO, Arne Kristian Kolberg, said. "Reducing salt intake is an important measure for improving public health," Kolberg said. "We want consumers to buy familiar and beloved products with the same good flavour, therefore it is important that we have a gradual reduction in salinity."

The country uses a "keyhole" labelling scheme that highlight healthier products. Kolberg said Nortura would double the amount of products that meet the scheme. The Nortura chief added the amount of salt in sausages would be reduced by 10% and in pâté by 21%. 

Guldvog added: "We must work jointly so consumers actually buy food with the reduced salt content. Parties to the partnership have different tasks, but are equal participants who commit themselves through a memorandum of understanding, and it is in this equivalency that the key to success lies."