“Breaking the salt habit will need collective muscle”
The Heart and Stroke Foundation will host a Salt Summit in partnership with Unilever with the aim to educate consumers on the dangers of salt.
The event will see representatives from various interest groups – academia, NGOs, government, media, healthcare groups and the food industry – taking a bold step forward in a major national awareness drive to educate South Africans on how to break the salt habit.
A September 2012 study by the SA Medical Journal found that an estimated 6 400 lives could be saved in South Africa every year by simply lowering the salt content of bread alone. By lowering salt intake in South Africa an estimated 4300 non-fatal strokes can be prevented, which amounts to a total annual saving of R300 million. This is the current burden on our healthcare sector, and the amount does not take into consideration household costs such as lost income.
However, despite the SAMJ findings and the World Health Organisation’s recommendation for people to consume no more than 5g of salt per day, South Africans continue to increase their discretionary salt intake, making them susceptible to life-threatening diseases such as stroke and heart disease.
Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSF) said: “The salt challenge cannot be tackled by one group alone. Increased collaboration between industry, government, public health organisations and the scientific community will add credibility to the cause and hopefully influence consumers to take decisions that will impact their health positively. Our partnership with Unilever will be crucial to this process.
“Behaviour changing education programmes for consumers backed by legislation will be a key driver to getting the right message home. This will prove to be particularly challenging amidst a diverse South African population driven by wide ranging cultural practices, religious beliefs and more discerning tastes to satisfy.”
The main objectives of the Summit will be to get key stakeholders to commit to the country’s salt reduction initiative and help reach consumers and the general public about salt reduction and healthy lifestyles that will reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and diabetes. The event hopes to demonstrate how positive lifestyle choices will ultimately help people to get more out of life.
As one of the major sponsors for the event, global FMCG giant Unilever hopes to help more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being by 2020.
“Unilever's goal is to help people reduce the salt intake of consumers by increasing the availability of delicious lower salt foods and by promoting the benefits of these foods, said Marcos Nakagawa, Vice President for Foods at Unilever.
“We are striving to achieve this by changing recipes that require reduced usage of salt and using salt replacements and enhancing flavours with other ingredients like herbs and spices.
“The event is an important platform to impart knowledge on nutrition to relevant stakeholders and the general public and can effectively promote desirable food behaviour and appropriate nutritional practices.”
South Africa is at risk of losing a significant amount of its national income as a result of the negative impact of chronic diseases on labour supplies and a reduction in the Gross Domestic Product.
The partnership between Unilever and the HSF as supported by Unilever’s investment in Research and Development aims to reduce the burden of preventable diseases on the country’s economy.
Unilever has committed to continually improving the taste and nutritional quality of its products with the intention of influencing consumers to make more informed decisions whilst shopping.
Presentations and topics that will be addressed at the summit include: The burden of hypertension and stroke in South Africa; The evidence for salt reduction; Current salt use amongst South African consumers; Consumer attitudes and salt consumption; South Africa’s Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) strategic plan and salt legislation; Industry & consumer challenges; The role of stakeholder groups; and A forward looking approach.
About The Heart & Stroke Foundation South Africa
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSF) plays a leading role in the fight against preventable heart disease and stroke, with the aim of seeing fewer South Africans suffer premature deaths and disabilities. The HSF, established in 1980 is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation and has NPO and section 21 status.
About Unilever South Africa
Unilever South Africa (Pty Ltd) is one of the largest FMCG companies in South Africa. The Company is over 100 years old, with brands like Sunlight, OMO, Lux, Knorr, Vaseline, Shield, Sunsilk, Flora etc that are household names throughout the country. Unilever South Africa has over 3000 employees based across two offices and five manufacturing locations in South Africa. It is rated as one of South Africa’s best employers. For more information visit
Unilever Sustainable Living Plan
In November 2010 the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan was launched. Unilever publicly committed to a ten year journey towards sustainable growth, with around 60 specific targets embedding this new thinking into our business. What makes the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan different is that it applies right across the value chain. Unilever is taking responsibility not just for its own direct operations but for their suppliers, distributors and – crucially – for how consumers use brands like Dove, Knorr, Lipton, Lifebuoy and Pureit.
The plans sets out that by 2020 Unilever will:
- help more than one billion people improve their health and well-being;
- halve the environmental footprint of the making and use of our products;
- source 100% of our agricultural raw materials sustainably
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