Salt of the earth: Singaporeans gorge on sodium to get real

by Tan Weizhen and Yu Pei Fern

SINGAPORE – A nationwide survey has found that eight in 10 people here exceeded the recommended daily intake of salt by more than 60 per cent.

This salt intake study, which used urine samples as a form of measurement for the first time, found that adults aged between 30 and 49 consumed the most salt.

Part of the National Nutrition Survey last year by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), it polled over 800 people here aged between 18 and 79.

Declaring “a war on salt”, HPB chief executive officer Ang Hak Seng said HPB is set to reduce the number of such people over-consuming salt by 30 per cent in four years’ time.

At a press conference yesterday, Mr Ang announced a new initiative to tackle the salt scourge: The FINEST Food Programme.

HPB will collaborate with the Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association and three polytechnics – Singapore, Republic and Temasek Polytechnic – to research and develop healthier food products.

The programme targets to produce 30 such food products by 2015.

For example, HPB has already collaborated with food company Siem Trading to come up with healthier salt at a price that is about 40 per cent cheaper as compared to imported brands.

HPB will also target hawker centres in the fight against salt. Mr Ang said: “If we tell the hawker to review salt, they will tell us it affects the taste. We have to … teach the hawkers how to cook, experiment with the hawker to prepare the food innovatively … so that (the dishes) remain tasty.”

He added that they have started with Yu Hua hawker centre in Jurong East, and will work with all hawker centres here in three years.

According to HPB, working adults consume more salt as they have a tendency to eat outside more frequently. A bowl of fishball noodles in soup alone contains 7.3 g of salt, yet the recommended daily salt intake is less than 5 g a day, said HPB [updated Oct 4, 6pm]. Males consume more salt – 3g more daily – than females, but the study did not examine the reasons.

The study also compared the results with that of other countries, and found that the individual daily salt intake is 2.6g more than Malaysia. Comparatively, the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada also have a higher overall salt intake.

Studies estimate that a reduction in daily salt intake of about 1g can reduce the incidence of stroke by 10 per cent and heart disease by 5 per cent.

Past studies, done every six years, examined salt intake of Singaporeans through questionnaires.

- Today Online

- Picture taken from PlosBlogs.com