Slash the salt: High sodium content in condiments poses public health concern in China

By Shali S.

- Last updated on GMT

There is an urgent need for government-backed comprehensive reformulation programmes for high-sodium condiments in China. ©Getty Images
There is an urgent need for government-backed comprehensive reformulation programmes for high-sodium condiments in China. ©Getty Images

Related tags Salt Sodium condiments China

There is an urgent need for government-backed comprehensive reformulation programmes for high-sodium condiments in China, experts claim.

A recent study on common Chinese condiments​ highlights a significant public health concern: high sodium levels. When comparing Chinese condiments against the World Health Organization’s global sodium benchmarks, chicken extract/chicken powder, bouillon cubes, and soy sauce are high in sodium, yet consumed often. Other commonly consumed condiments like sesame/peanut butter-based products are also excessively high in fat. 

Chinese researchers emphasize the urgency of government initiatives to promote healthier dietary choices and improve public health outcomes. The study also highlights that the most important measure to improve the health of Chinese residents is to improve their awareness of dietary knowledge, so as to reduce dietary risks and control the intake of oil, salt, sugar/sweeteners, and other ingredients in the diet through condiments or other sources. 

The objective of this study was to assess the nutritional composition of key condiments in China and provide essential data to support the establishment of recommended condiment intake levels for salt reduction initiatives in the country. Nutritional information for condiments was collected from the Chinese Database on Nutrition Labelling of Prepackaged Foods spanning the years 2017 to 2022, as well as through online access to food composition databases from France, the UK, Belgium, and Japan. 

The study encompassed an analysis of 1,510 Chinese condiments and 1,565 comparable condiments from the four countries mentioned above. Cross-country comparisons were conducted to assess variations in nutrient content among the five countries concerning the World Health Organization’s global sodium benchmarks. 

The findings revealed that, among the various categories of condiments in China, products based on sesame or peanut butter exhibited relatively high energy, fat, and protein contents, specifically 2,580 kJ/100 g, 50 g/100 g, and 22.2 g/100 g, respectively.

Additionally, certain condiments, such as chicken extract, bouillon cubes, and soy sauce, were found to have elevated sodium levels. Substantial disparities in energy and key nutrient levels were observed across different condiment products when compared to similar products in other countries. 

In light of these findings, the study concluded that it was imperative to enhance public awareness regarding condiment consumption and reduce the quantity of condiments consumed. This holds significant implications for lowering per capita salt intake in China and promoting overall health. 

The researchers also urged governments to encourage reformulation programme, which are especially important due to the adverse effects of consuming high levels of sodium, fat, and sugar in a daily diet.

Public health concerns include the risk of developing obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and other related non-communicable chronic diseases. A comprehensive analysis conducted by the Global Burden of Disease Study in 2017 indicated that dietary risk factors were responsible for roughly 11 million deaths and 255 million disability-adjusted life years worldwide, with high sodium intake alone contributing to approximately 3 million fatalities. 

In many studies, reducing sodium stands out as one of the most cost-efficient and achievable approaches to enhance overall public health and alleviate the burden of non-communicable diseases. This supports the government’s "Healthy China" strategy which aims to implement a range of nutrition and health policies, including the "National Nutrition Plan" and the "Healthy China Action" to improve overall public health.

Study: Evaluating the Energy and Core Nutrients of Condiments in China

Source: Nutrients

Authors: Lv, W. et. al.


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