'Packaged foods don't display salt levels'

Nearly three out of every four Indian packaged foods do not display salt levels, reveals a survey conducted by the George Institute of Global Health India. Health experts warn that too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke.

The survey conducted on 7,124 products available for purchase in Indian supermarkets shows that only 26 per cent of packaged food products displayed sodium (or salt) content on the label. Executive Director of the institute Dr Vivekanand Jha said the products do not meet minimum labelling requirements of Codex, the international body governing food labelling.

“The preliminary findings of the study are a matter of great concern as consumers are eating progressively more processed foods generally containing higher levels of salt,” he said.

The ongoing project, which the institute is running in collaboration with the Centre for Chronic Disease Control, will gather information on dietary salt intake levels among a sample of people in North and South India. They will also collect nutrient information on packaged and outside food available for purchase.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India have recently put in place a regulation defining minimum requirements for the labelling of the nutritional content of packaged foods.

“Comprehensive nutritional labelling on packaged foods is just one of the steps that needs to be taken. Other key areas are community awarenesss as well as  building a strong national advisory committee to take the program forward,” said Jha.

He added that the government should consider the merits of introducing a standard front-of-pack labelling system displaying sodium content. The institute argues that enforcement of sodium regulations will help consumers by providing them with the tools to make better choices.

Doctors say salt is a learned taste and people should keep tabs on their salt intake.

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