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About the Foundation

The elimination of salt

Essential to life, but in minute quantities, mankind has been consuming salt since Neolithic times. It is used both as a preservative and a condiment. Until the 19th century, salt was a rare resource, as it was geographically poorly distributed. In the 20th century, it became an inexpensive industrial product, added to most foodstuffs in the food industry. Nowadays, it is consumed in excess and widely criticised because of health risks.
©Shutterstock / Vince Clements

Used universally

Salt, or sodium chloride, has been used since Neolithic times to both preserve food and season it. Its universal use made it a favoured source of taxes. It became inexpensive in the 20th century and the food industry soon saw its benefits for the preparation of its products. Salt is used to reduce the bitter taste of food, preserve it longer, make it more attractive (pink rather than greyish ham) and even to make chocolate bars and cereals sweeter. The World Health Organization recommends consuming less than 5 g a day. However, the majority of Europeans consume between 8 and 11 g every day. Excessive consumption of salt can cause high blood pressure, thus increasing the risks of fluid retention, kidney problems, cardiovascular disorders and strokes. To avoid these risks, the WHO and the UN have decided to reduce salt consumption by 30% in member country populations by 2025. Different measures are being taken depending on the country, but they have two overall targets: to reduce salt in industrial food products and provide people with better information about the risks related to a diet which is too high in salt. As such, one of the approaches is to control advertising content for products containing a lot of salt while favouring advertisements related to a healthy, balanced diet. An alternative option is to apply taxes to salted products. Some countries, such as Finland and Great Britain, have improved food product labelling so that low-salt products can be readily identified. In the face of criticism, the food industry is attempting to develop substitutes and use aromatic plants and spices as an alternative to salt. Some are even trying to produce molecules which accentuate the saltiness of foodstuffs, so that they will be perceived as salty even though they contain very little salt.