China and the United States lead the world for saltiest processed meats and fish

By Robert Preidt
health day reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 19, 2021 (HealthDay News) — China and the United States are salt consumption superpowers.

The two world leaders have emerged with the highest salt levels in processed meat and fish products among five countries assessed in a new study.

High levels of salt in food are a major cause of high blood pressure and associated risks of heart and kidney disease and death. The World Health Organization recommends a maximum salt intake of 2000 mg/day, but the average global salt intake in 2010 was about twice as high.

WHO has set a goal of a 30% global reduction in salt intake by 2025. Although all five countries in this study have strategies to reduce salt intake, the “sodium content of products based on meat and fish in all selected countries was very high”. , with a 100g serving of meat and fish products contributing half/one-third of the WHO recommended maximum daily sodium intake,” wrote Puhong Zhang, from the George Institute of the Center of Health Sciences from Peking University, China, and colleagues.

The researchers looked at the food nutrition labels of 26,500 products at major supermarket chains across the country, focusing on salt content.

Overall salt levels were highest in China (1,050 mg/100 g), followed by the United States, South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom (432 mg/100 g), according to the study. The results were published on October 18 in the online journal BMJ open.

The study also found wide variations in salt levels within and between the five countries, depending on products and brands.

For example: the average salt content of meat products was lower in Australia (580 mg/100 g) than in the UK (590 mg/100 g). The salt content of rotisserie chicken in China was 4.5 times higher than in the UK (893 mg/100 g versus 197 mg/100 g). Chilled fish in China was 4.5 times saltier than in the United States, but the salt content of bacon, frozen meat, salami and cold cuts, jerky and frozen fish in China was the lowest of the five countries.

Processed meat products included: meat substitutes; Bacon; canned meat; frozen meat; meat burgers; salami and cold cuts; sausages and hot dogs; sliced ​​meat; dried meat; meat pies and spreads; skewers; “other” meat products and flavored raw meats. Also included are whole hams and similar products; roast chicken; and tasteless raw meats.

Processed fish products included canned, chilled, frozen and “other” products.

“It is not easy to simply replace or reformulate high sodium products that have already been around for years. However, the large difference in sodium content of similar products in different countries, and the difference in sodium content between different brands within the same country, indicate that there is still plenty of room for salt reduction,” the researchers noted in a press release.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers ways to reduce salt intake.

THE SOURCE: BMJ openpress release, October 18, 2021

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