Joining the lively salt debate scientists at Europe's food watchdog today issues an opinion concerning the upper limit for sodium intake and confirm current consumption levels are a risk factor in heart and renal diseases, reports Lindsey Partos.
Sodium belongs to one of the 12 remaining vitamins and minerals for which EFSA has been asked to provide scientific advice in support of the European Commission's legislativework in this area.
"While sodium is an essential nutrient, dietary intakes in Europe today far exceed nutritional requirements," say the EFSA scientists.
They conclude that it is not possible to determine a level of sodium intake, beyond therecommended dietary intake, which does not have an adverse effect.
Eating too much salt is widely believed to be a significant risk factor in developing high blood pressure, itself a cause or contributing factor in the rising incidence of heart disease, the world's number one killer.
And recent figures from the UK's Food Standards Agency claim that every day at least 26 million people eat more than the recommended daily limit of 6g of salt. Men are eating the most with a daily average of 11.0g of salt while women consume an average of 8.1g a day.
Although this mineral is present at low levels in foods, its main source is in the diet, about 70-75 per cent of total intake comes from processed foods, say the researchers at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Condemned for contributing to the worsening health problems in the population, food makers are under orders to slash salt levels in their processed food formulations.
Targets published by Blair's government in the March 2004 White Paper on Public Health say the food industry must contribute to reducing the salt intake of the population to 6g per person per day by 2010.
But at €0.21 a kilo, any alternatives to salt will add unwanted costs to new product formulations. Salt, a seasoning and preservative composed of 40 per cent sodium and 60 per cent chlorine, plays a pivotal role in multiple foods on the market.