In New York, foods which contain particularly large amounts of salt are to be specially labelled. In principle, this actually isn’t such a bad idea because people still consume too much salt.
New York restaurants which belong to a chain with at least 15 branches will in future have to warn diners about dishes which contain particularly large amounts of salt using a small salt shaker symbol. However, what initially sounds like another spawn of the countless American food warnings isn’t actually that outlandish given the fact that people still generally consume too much salt.
For instance, according to the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO), the Swiss population consumes about 9 grams per person on average. This figure is higher than the daily intake of 5 grams of salt per person recommended by the World Health Organization.
However, David Fäh, a specialist in preventive medicine from the University of Zurich, doubts whether warning symbols can really help to reduce salt consumption: «The warnings are sensible in principle because they make the general public aware of this issue, but the message mainly gets across to those people who already lead a healthy lifestyle.»
David Fäh considers the salt strategy which the federal government launched several years ago to be a more sensible approach. It has already enabled initial progress to be made as confirmed by Federal Councillor, Alain Berset, in an interview [in German] with the «Tages-Anzeiger» newspaper in April 2015: «We have succeeded in reducing salt consumption in Switzerland by 10 per cent compared to the long-term average.» Among other things, this is because mutually acceptable solutions were agreed, for example with local bakeries which voluntarily reduce the amount of salt in their bread.
However, the parliament refrained from introducing explicit warnings on packaging stating how healthy or unhealthy foods are – also for economic reasons. The majority of parliamentarians argued that listing the ingredients (and usually also where they are sourced) suffices.
A diet containing a lot of salt increases the risk of cardiovascular illnesses in some people. Consuming lots of salt also increases the risk of getting some forms of cancer. Studies [in German] have, however, also shown that people who consume too little salt are more likely to have strokes or heart attacks. So as is often the case where nutrition is concerned, it is ideal for people to consume it in moderation.
We get about 70 to 80 per cent of the salt we consume from processed foods. On a daily basis, this predominantly refers to bread and baked goods, cheese and meat products as well as ready meals in particular.
For example, there is 1 gram of salt:
Source: Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO)
Source: David Fäh
Salt does not contain any calories. Nevertheless, it can impact on our body weight. It «carries» the flavour and makes people thirsty. They then frequently quench their thirst with calorific drinks. Manufacturers use salt to satisfy consumers and to boost consumption because salt whets the appetite, making us eat more.
Once a bag of crisps has been opened, it is incredibly difficult not to polish off the whole lot. Only few people are able to resist this temptation. This «phenomenon of not being able to stop» has a physiological explanation: dried snacks stimulate the production of considerable amounts of saliva. Salt and flavour enhancers actively support this process. The flow of saliva whets the appetite which in turn stimulates the production of saliva. Once the system gets into gear, it is virtually impossible to stop. Quite the contrary: the appetite grows and screams for more.
his article was first published on Beobachter Gesundheit [in German]: Advice, tips on prevention and well-being as well as information on illnesses and symptoms
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