Vila Times

Report: food imports from Fiji contribute to high salt intake in Vanuatu

Vila Times’s Mobile Application

A recent survey by the Word Health Organisation (WHO) and the Government of Vanuatu on the salt intake of a cross-section of the population on the main island of Efate has found that more than 80 percent of people surveyed consume more than 5 grams of salt daily, higher than the WHO recommended intake.

Anything higher than 5 grams is considered high salt intake and could lead to hypertension, heart attack and stroke, reports Makereta Komai for PACNEWS.

Vanuatu’s daily average is more than the WHO recommended daily average salt intake – over 7 gram in spot urine and 6 gram for 24 hour urine, said Dr Tsogzolmar Bayandorj, the medical officer in charge of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Vanuatu.

“This is a dangerous trend. While the survey is not representative of the salt intake for the whole population of Vanuatu, it is a sub-regional survey that provides a snapshot of the eating habit of part of the population.

“Most of the salt intake is not in the table salt that people eat daily. What the survey found is that the increase intake is in the hidden salt in other food that people take, said the WHO senior official.

Dr Bayandori shared findings of the five month survey at a side event during the Pacific Week of Agriculture in Port Vila that discussed food security and nutrition in Small Island Developing States.

Majority of the salt consumed were from instant noodles, variety of sauces, canned fish and meats.

The survey showed that a large proportion of imported products, mostly from Fiji have higher salt content. It found that only 26% of noodles sold in Fiji met Pacific Salt Reduction Targets. Fiji is one of the highest importers of processed foods into Vanuatu indicating that these products are likely to be contributing to the Vanuatu population’s salt intake.

“One strategy to address this could be a discussion surrounding the restriction of imports of foods which are higher than their healthy salt target. Given that these foods are consumed widely by the Vanuatu population in the form of tinned corn beef and tomato and Asian sauce, awareness campaigns could be focused around these two food categories in particular to reduce population salt consumption, said Dr Bayandori.

Addressing salt intake will need a multi-sectoral approach involving government, the industry and the community.