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In May 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released the first edition of its Global Sodium Benchmarks. It consisted of 10 benchmarks for various food categories. In April 2024, the organisation released a second edition, broadening the scope within each category. The most recent edition specifies maximum sodium levels in 70 food subcategories. But what is the objective behind setting these benchmarks? As per the website, “These global benchmarks are intended to be complementary to ongoing national and regional efforts to set sodium targets. Global sodium benchmarks are also intended to be useful for countries in setting national policies and strategies and for the ongoing dialogue between WHO and the private sector at the global level.”

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The report highlights that a poor diet is associated with an estimated 8 million deaths around the world, among which 2 million “are attributable to high sodium intakes”. According to WHO, the recommended daily intake of salt should be less than 5 g (i.e. < 2 g sodium). Excessive consumption of sodium raises blood pressure levels and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The report points out that it is also associated with several other health problems, including chronic kidney disease, obesity, gastric cancer and liver diseases. Thus, it is crucial to take targeted steps on a large scale to reduce sodium intake.

The report provides a detailed list of groups of foods alongside a Global Benchmark and the lowest maximum limit on which the benchmark is based. For instance, for cookies and sweet biscuits, the global sodium benchmark is 200 mg/ 100 g, while for savoury biscuits and crackers the same is 580 mg/ 100 g. Check out the full list here. WHO notes that “it may not be feasible to apply the same target universally across all products and countries.” Hence, a local adaptation of the benchmarks becomes important. 
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About Toshita SahniToshita is fuelled by wordplay, wanderlust, wonderment and Alliteration. When she is not blissfully contemplating her next meal, she enjoys reading novels and roaming around the city.