The amount of salt in food needs to be further reduced

May 23/2022

There is a surprising amount of pre-packed foods with a high salt content on the Finnish market. The Food Authority's national control project for salt and nutrition shows the need to reduce the amount of salt even further from their current levels in the preparation of mixed-grain breads, cold cuts and processed foods.

The Food Authority studied the nutrition information, the compliance and correctness of the labelling of foods relevant for the intake of salt. A total of 217 pre-packed and 100 non-prepacked foods were investigated. The amount of salt was analysed in a total of 170 pre-packed foods and, in addition this, other nutritional information indicated on the packaging was analysed in 62 samples.

Food inspectors checked the correctness of the labelling at food preparation sites. Except for salt, nutrition labelling was mainly correct. Labelling was not in conformity with the composition of the product in 11% of the foods investigated. For example, the recipe and the list of ingredients did not always match. The name of the food was incorrect or completely missing.

“In municipalities, control of the nutritional content of food has been in the right direction, but  control of the recipe and labelling needs to be improved going forward ,” says Tuulikki Lehto, Senior Inspector at the Finnish Food Authority.

Of the products analysed by the Food Authority's laboratory, 12% differed from the nutrition indicated on the label in terms of salt content. Of the samples of bread, 11% did not match the labelling. The figure for sausage and cold cut samples was 10% and for processed food samples 14%.

Around one in five of the products examined by the Food Authority's laboratory had a high salt content.

“The rye breads and sausages mostly had a normal salt content, whereas as many as half of the mixed-grain breads had a high salt content,” says researcher Janne Järvinen.

The recommended salt intake for adults is 5 grams per day. The majority of Finnish adults get too much salt from food. A food that is important for salt intake must be declared as having a high salt content if it exceeds the limits laid down in legislation. As part of the project, food business operators were asked about the impact of high salt content labelling on product development. The result showed that this was relevant for every other product.

"Consideration should be given as to whether, with regard to the population's salt intake, the maximum level for high salt content needs to be lowered in all categories of food by 0.1 g/100 g. This would then enable consumers to make healthier product choices at the time of purchase,” Tuulikki Lehto suggests

In individual nutrient terms, all nutrition information was correctly indicated in 81% of processed foods . For individual processed foods, the study found all nutrition labelling to be in line with the tolerance limits in about one third of the processed foods analysed.

“The amounts of proteins corresponded well with the results of the analysis, but the deviations in the amounts of fats, fatty acids and carbohydrates still need to be further studied,” commented special researcher Helena Pastell.

Nearly one fifth of the fats and saturated fatty acids and nearly 40% of the carbohydrates were incorrectly indicated in processed foods.

The Finnish Food Authority carried out a national control project for salt and nutrition (July 2019 - June 2021) together with municipalities, regional state administrative agencies and Customs food control authorities.

Read more:

National control project for salt and nutrition (Report in Finnish, abstract in English)

More information from:

Tuulikki Lehto, Senior Inspector, Food Composition Section, tel. +358 50 558 2696
Janne Järvinen, researcher, Inorganic Chemistry Section, tel. +358 50 439 6763
Helena Pastell, Senior Researcher, Composition and Origin Section, tel. +358 50 375 0968