Salt intake in South Africa: a current perspective

  • Gabriel Eksteen Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
  • Vash Mungal-Singh Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
Keywords: sodium intake, salt intake, sodium legislation, hypertension, public awareness, cardiovascular disease


South Africans carry an unacceptably high burden of hypertension [high blood pressure (BP)]. Up to 30% of adults are known to be hypertensive.1 It was estimated to have caused 46 888 deaths and 390 860 disability-adjusted life years in 2000.2 Hypertension is the most common reason for attending primary health care and also the most common diagnosis (13.1%) in South Africa.3 High salt consumption is a key driver of hypertension, and there is strong evidence to indicate that South Africans consume up to 2-3 times the recommended daily allowance of 5 g. The sources of this dietary salt intake are split between salt from processed food and discretionary salt, which is salt that is added at home during cooking and at the table.4 The National Department of Health recently legislated salt reduction in certain processed foods.5 While this will reduce one source of salt in the diet, it does not deal with discretionary salt use. Global experience shows that the best means of reducing salt consumption is a combined approach of lowering salt levels in processed food, together with a parallel public education and consumer awareness campaign. Whereas other countries have attempted to reduce salt through voluntary participation from industry, South Africa is the first country to embark on the legislated route on a basket of food products. Salt Watch, an initiative established by a multisectoral coalition group, is South Africa’s national salt reduction education and awareness campaign. The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) was nominated as the implementing body of the campaign, which is supported by the National Department of Health.

Author Biographies

Gabriel Eksteen, Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
MSc(Physiol), RD Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
Vash Mungal-Singh, Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
MBChB, FFPath(Haem), MBA Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
Guest Editorial