The Federal Government says it will formulate policies and national strategies to educate Nigerians on the adequate consumption quantity of safe and nutritious foods with appropriate salt content.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr Kachollom Daju, said this in Abuja on Tuesday during the inauguration of the Technical Working Group (TWG) on Salt Reduction.
Daju, represented by Mrs Olubunmi Aribeana, Director, Food and Drug Services in the ministry, said that the policies would improve the dietary habits of Nigerians.
Daju said that the formation of the group was approved after the successful validation of the report on Policy and Legal Landscape Analysis for Front-of-Pack Labelling and Salt Target Setting in Nigeria (2023).
“Reducing salt intake is one of the most effective measures to improve health and reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases, as it can avert a large number of cardiovascular events and deaths at very low public health costs,” she said.
According to her, the group is expected to develop a comprehensive National Sodium Reduction Guideline for an effective and efficient approach to salt reduction in the country.
”This sodium intake comes from a variety of natural foods like milk, meat, shellfish, and processed foods such as breads, processed meat, snacks, spices as well as in bouillon cubes.
“It is also a known fact that salt is an essential nutrient necessary for maintenance of body plasma volume, acid-base balance, transmission of nerve impulse and normal cell function.
“But dietary salt consumption which is dependent on cultural and dietary habits of citizens has led to over consumption,” Daju said.
She said that the increasing high salt consumption in Nigeria has also increased the risk of cardiovascular diseases, gastric cancer, obesity, osteoporosis and kidney disease.
“The WHO recommends that member states should reduce intake of salt (sodium) by 30 per cent by year 2025 and study findings in some parts of our country shows that average adults consume much salt per day.
“This is higher than the WHO recommended 2g of sodium equivalent to 1 teaspoon consumption per day and in addition to insufficient potassium intake in our diets,” she said.
The permanent secretary said that the group was expected to be efficient, productive and impactful in the development of the guideline to achieve the needed result.
Daju said the group would guide the implementation of the WHO SHAKE Project on salt intake reduction in the country in order to meet the 2025 deadline.
In her goodwill message, Mrs Adeola Olufowobi-Yusuf, Head of Department, Food and Drugs Services in the ministry said that the country had prioritised salt reduction concern through a variety of actions and strategies to lower national sodium consumption.
According to her, some of the strategies include formulating policies to reduce salt content in the national food chain and proposing development of mandatory sodium limits in processed foods.
“Therefore, industries, small and medium sized food products enterprises and local food vendors must be closely monitored and sensitised to ensure compliance with clearly defined national food safety standards.
“At this point in time, I will like to implore you to work assiduously and collaboratively as a member of the TWG to ensure we have a robust and comprehensive guideline.
“This alarming statistic is not surprising given the significant changes in the Nigerian diet as a result of processed foods and seasonings loaded with high sodium as seen in the local market food products and eateries.
“Furthermore, changes in daily population routines and work dynamics have also contributed to the development of unhealthy dietary behaviours in Nigerians,” she said.
She added that the changes in the country’s dietary patterns marked by an increased salt consumption in homemade meals, had increased the risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
Olufowobi-Yusuf said that Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), necessitated by excessive sodium intake, were significantly on the rise in the country.
“Certain staple foods in Nigeria such as bread, suya, snacks, noodles, shrimps among others are high in salt which could cause cardiovascular disease in humans when ingested.
“In its effort to tackle high sodium intake in the population and its harmful effects on public health, Nigeria integrated a salt reduction programme into its 2019-2025 National Multi-Sectoral Action Plan.
“The plan is for the prevention and control of NCDs in line with the WHO SHAKE package,” she said