Industry and Reformulation

Engaging with the food industry to reduce salt in foods and meals

Why it matters

In most high-income countries, and increasingly in low and middle-income countries, 70-80% of salt consumed comes from processed foods and meals (including meals eaten out of the home and takeaway foods). Engaging the food industry (Tool 1) to encourage them to reduce the salt content of foods and meals is therefore a priority for most salt reduction strategies. Food manufacturers and catering companies should be encouraged to reduce salt in foods as much as possible while at the same time ensuring that, where appropriate, salt added to foods is iodized.

Salt has been added gradually to food over decades for taste and/or preservative reasons.  The reasons for adding salt are different for different product categories and food safety issues need to be considered. However, evidence to date suggests that for many foods, it is possible to make reductions of between 30-40% without compromising safety or consumer acceptability.

How to do it

Engaging the food industry can happen in different ways including through: 

  • individual or sector wide meetings co-ordinated by governments or other organisations, 
  • written communications direct to companies, or 
  • via the media. 

Further information and advice to engage the food industry to reduce salt content in foods and meals is outlined in the reformulation readiness guidance by VicHealth (Resource 1). This is targeted to the context of Australia but may be applicable to other countries.

Setting Targets for Salt Content 

The most effective way to get food companies to reduce salt in food products and meals is through the establishment of targets for salt levels in foods (Tool 2 and Tool 3). Such targets can either be promoted via voluntary agreements between government and the food industry, such as in the UK (Resource 2). Or alternatively, they may be established and enforced using legislation as is the case in South Africa (Resource 3).

Other Resources

Surveillance, monitoring and evaluation

Collecting data is important to inform the intervention, to monitor the extent to which it is being implemented effectively and having the intended effect, and to evaluate the impact of the intervention. It is important to do surveillance before (plan & design), during (monitoring & adaptation) and after (evaluation) program implementation. The figure below shows how the findings from surveillance and monitoring can be used at each stage of a program.

Developing Strategies

Salt reduction strategies are much more likely to be effective and sustainable if time and effort is put into developing a strategic approach and ensuring stakeholder commitment. If you are clear about what you are trying to

Consumer Awareness and Behaviour Change

Targeted and sustained communication and behaviour change strategies can be used to empower people to improve their salt intake and diet, create consumer demand for lower salt food products, and improve uptake of