The Health Ministry wants the public to get used to consuming less salt in food, but it doesn’t want the food industry to use salt substitutes of potassium and other minerals or plants.
Prof. Itamar Grotto, the ministry’s public health chief, issued its official position this week to food manufacturing and importing companies, stating that the best way to help the public reduce salt consumption is to gradually reduce sodium content in prepared and processed foods.
Using substitutes will not make them less dependent on salty tastes and may also be dangerous to some, wrote Grotto.
Salt substitutes “raise the concern that consumers will eat an excess of minerals, including potassium, and these may cause side effects among sensitive parts of the population, including the elderly, small children and kidney disease patients,” he wrote.
The ministry’s efforts to reduce salt – and sugar – consumption to promote better health and prevent disease is part of its Efshari Bari (Health is Possible) campaign. Its public health experts held meetings with representatives of the food industry about gradually reducing the amount of sodium in their products, from potato chips and breads to processed meat.
About three-quarters of sodium consumption comes not from people using their own salt shakers but from processed foods, whether in cans or otherwise prepared, the ministry said.
If salt content were suddenly reduced in prepared food, much of the population would avoid the products because it takes time to get used to the new taste, said Grotto. Instead, the reduction must take place over a few years. High salt content can lead to hypertension and other diseases.