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Salt content in commercially produced bread successfully reduced

Too much salt poses a risk to health. Against this background, and in the context of the Swiss Nutrition Strategy, the FSVO is pursuing the objective of reducing the population’s salt intake by the end of 2016 and at the same time ensuring that the Swiss population consumes enough iodine.

People in Switzerland each consume about 9 g of salt per day, putting their salt intake above the level of 5 g per person and day recommended by the WHO. This is why the FSVO is pursuing the goal of reducing salt intake to 8 g per person and day by the end of 2016. Most of the salt consumed on a daily basis comes from processed food, which accounts for 70–80 %. A good 20 % of this is derived from bread and baked goods.

In August 2014, the FSVO, the Swiss Bakers and Patissiers Association (SBC) and the cantonal chemists collaborated on a national bread monitoring project. The aim of this bread monitoring was to gain an up-to-date overview of the salt content in commercially produced brown and semi-white breads on the Swiss market. A total of 335 bread samples from 171 bakeries throughout Switzerland were tested in the FSVO laboratories. The mean salt content of these breads was 1.46 g per 100 g, which is below the quantity of 1.5 g per 100 g recommended by the FSVO and the SBC. But it was also found that half of the breads tested had a salt content above the recommended level.

A study carried out in 2011 by the Swiss School of Agriculture, Forest and Food Science (SHL) measured an average content of 1.74 g per 100 g. Compared to the 2011 study, bread has a lower salt content today. Yet there is still a need for action since half the breads tested contained too much salt.

Iodine is an essential trace element that is important in forming thyroid hormones. As there is no natural source of iodine in Switzerland, the salt used in this country has been iodised since the 1920s. Previous studies showed that bread is the major source of iodine in Switzerland, which means that commercial bakeries have a particularly great responsibility and should therefore use only iodised salt to produce bread. A survey of the use of iodised salt was carried out with the 171 bakeries that took part in the bread monitoring project. It showed that the majority (86.6 %) of these operations are aware of their responsibility and use iodised salt. Of the bakeries that do not use iodised salt (9.9 %), two stated that they use sea salt. The survey did not establish the reasons for not using iodised salt.

The aim described in the salt strategy of reducing the salt content of processed food was achieved in part thanks to the good collaboration with the SBC. It was gratifying to find that most of the bakeries in the study use iodised salt.

The collection of bread samples during regular inspections, part of the cantonal enforcement procedure, has also demonstrated its value. This is the first time that an approach of this kind has been taken in the area of health promotion and prevention.

The FSVO will work with the SBC on further measures and follow up their implementation. These include a further gradual reduction of the salt content over the coming years as part of the Swiss Nutrition Strategy 2017+. The iodine intake of the population will be monitored periodically, specifically in high-risk groups such as pregnant and breast-feeding women, with the FSVO implementing measures as necessary.