Most people consume double the WHO-recommended 5g of daily salt intake, putting themselves at greater risk of the heart diseases and strokes that kill an estimated 3 million people each year.
Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new set of global benchmarks for sodium levels in more than 60 food categories that will help countries reduce sodium contents in foods to improve diets and save lives.
“WHO Global Sodium Benchmarks for Different Food Categories” is a guide for countries and industry to reduce the sodium content in different categories of processed foods. Around the world, consumption of processed food is a rapidly increasing source of sodium.
Confusingly, similar processed food products often contain different amounts of sodium in different countries. WHO’s harmonized global benchmarks will show countries how they can progressively lower their targets, based on their local food environments, and encourage industry to lower the sodium content in processed foods accordingly and advance toward the WHO goal of 30% reduction in global salt/sodium intake by 2025.
“Most people don’t know how much sodium they consume, or the risks it poses,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We need countries to establish policies to reduce salt intake and provide people with the information they need to make the right food choices. We also need the food and beverage industry to cut sodium levels in processed foods. WHO’s new benchmarks give countries and industry a starting point to review and establish policies to transform the food environment and save lives.”
The WHO Global Sodium Benchmarks target a wide range of categories of processed and packaged food products that significantly contribute to overly salty diets. Processed and packaged bread, savoury snacks, meat products and cheese are among the categories of high-sodium food products identified for the new global benchmarks.
Reducing sodium content by reformulating processed foods is a proven strategy to reduce population sodium intake, particularly in places where consumption of processed foods is high. It can also prevent processed foods from becoming a major source of sodium in countries where consumption of these manufactured foods may be rapidly increasing.
In the United Kingdom, voluntary targets for food manfacturers to reformulate products decreased adult salt intake approximately 15% between 2003 and 2011, indicating that target-setting across multiple food categories can achieve meaningful reductions in sodium consumption.
“Access to affordable, healthy foods is critically important for all people in every country,” said Dr Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an Initiative of Vital Strategies. “These global benchmarks are an important first step. As consumer tastes adjust and technology advances, country governments and the WHO can steadily reduce them over time until population sodium reduction goals have been met. When we reduce sodium gradually, our food will still taste great, and only our hearts will know the difference!”
These new benchmarks are launching during a decisive year for food and nutrition policy. The United Nations Food Systems Summit in September and the Nutrition for Growth Summit in December will convene a wide range of stakeholders to transform food systems by providing opportunities for national, regional and global efforts to improve the food environment and make commitments including to limit the sodium content in processed foods.
###About the World Health Organization
The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from 149 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and wellbeing.
For updates on COVID-19 and public health advice to protect yourself from coronavirus, visit www.who.int and follow WHO on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, TwitchAbout Resolve to Save Lives
Resolve to Save Lives is an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies focused on preventing 100 million deaths from heart disease and making the world safer from epidemics. It is led by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To find out more visit: https://www.resolvetosavelives.org or Twitter @ResolveTSLAbout Vital Strategies
Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible.
To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.
WHO Director-General congratulates the Democratic Republic of the Congo as 12th Ebola outbreak is declared over; stresses need to maintain vigilance to prevent virus’s return
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus congratulated all involved in bringing an end to the 12th Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and stressed the need for continued vigilance to prevent a return of the disease and in containing other health challenges.
“Today’s declaration of an end to the latest Ebola outbreak in the in Democratic Republic of the Congo is a testament to the professionalism, sacrifices, and collaboration by hundreds of true health heroes, in particular the Congolese responders,” said Dr Tedros. “The World Health Organization is committed to helping national and local authorities, and the people of North Kivu, prevent the return of this deadly virus and to promote the overall health and well-being of all at-risk communities.”
This latest Ebola outbreak started in North Kivu in February, coming nine months after an earlier outbreak in the same province was declared over. It was the country’s fourth in under three years.
Dr Tedros said the return earlier this year of the virus underscored the persistent health threats that people in North Kivu face, and the need for all involved in promoting and protecting public health to remain vigilant in the face of Ebola, as well as COVID-19, measles, cholera and other challenges confronting communities, all within a difficult climate marked by violence.
In the latest outbreak, now declared over, 11 confirmed cases and one probable case, six deaths and six recoveries were recorded in four health zones since 7 February. Genome sequencing results found that the first case detected was linked to the earlier outbreak, but the infection’s source is yet to be determined.
The response was coordinated by the Provincial Department of Health in collaboration with WHO and partners. WHO had nearly 60 experts on the ground and as soon as the outbreak was declared helped local workers to trace contacts, provide treatment, engage communities and vaccinate nearly 2000 people at high risk, including over 500 frontline workers.
While this latest outbreak is over, there is a need for continued vigilance and maintaining a strong surveillance system as potential flare-ups are possible in coming months. It is equally important to keep improving infection prevention and control in health facilities to prevent all infectious diseases, and to keep supporting Ebola survivors through dedicated rehabilitation programmes. Such actions must be supported by dedicated efforts to improve the persistent challenges posed by insecurity and armed violence in the North Kivu region.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the Government of Sweden’s announcement today to share 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with the COVAX Facility to provide life-saving vaccines to people at risk from COVID-19 in low income countries.
“Sweden’s announcement that it will share 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with COVAX is a superb gesture that must be replicated urgently, and repeatedly, by governments around the world to accelerate the equitable rollout of vaccines globally,” said Dr Tedros, who met today with Sweden’s Minister for Development Cooperation, Mr Per Olsson Fridh, during his visit to WHO’s headquarters in Geneva.
COVAX urgently needs 20 million doses during the second quarter of 2021 to cover interruptions in supply triggered by increased demands for vaccines in India where COVAX’s main supplier of the AstraZeneca product is based.
Dr Tedros added: “Such support will ensure that people in vulnerable countries, especially, in Africa, will be able to receive their second doses through the COVAX initiative. Sweden’s generous support is very timely as it comes at a time when the world needs it most.”
WHO and its partners are advocating for countries to make contributions, like Sweden’s, to donate doses from their stocks to boost vaccine supplies to COVAX to deepen vaccination coverage in low income countries and to ensure populations in such places receive needed second doses. Several other countries have made similar commitments recently, including New Zealand and France.
Today, WHO listed the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA 1273) for emergency use, making it the fifth vaccine to receive emergency validation from WHO.
WHO’s Emergency Use Listing (EUL) assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and is a prerequisite for COVAX Facility vaccine supply. It also allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.
The vaccine has already been reviewed by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), which makes recommendations for vaccines’ use in populations (i.e. recommended age groups, intervals between shots, advice for specific groups such as pregnant and lactating women). The SAGE recommended the vaccine for all age groups 18 and above in its interim recommendations dated 25 January 2021.
The US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine on 18 December 2020 and a marketing authorisation valid throughout the European Union was granted by the European Medicines Agency on 6 January 2021.
The WHO EUL process can be carried out quickly when vaccine developers submit the full data required by WHO in a timely manner. Once those data are submitted, WHO can rapidly assemble its evaluation team and regulators from around the world to assess the information and, when necessary, carry out inspections of manufacturing sites.
The Moderna vaccine is an mNRA-based vaccine. It was found by the SAGE to have an efficacy of efficacy of 94.1%, based on a median follow-up of two months. Although the vaccine is provided as a frozen suspension at –25 ºC to –15 ºC in a multidose vial, vials can be stored refrigerated at 2–8 °C for up to 30 days prior to withdrawal of the first dose, meaning that ultra-cold chain equipment may not always be necessary to deploy the vaccine.WHO emergency use listing
The emergency use listing procedure assesses the suitability of novel health products during public health emergencies. The objective is to make medicines, vaccines and diagnostics available as rapidly as possible to address the emergency, while adhering to stringent criteria of safety, efficacy and quality. The assessment weighs the threat posed by the emergency as well as the benefit that would accrue from the use of the product against any potential risks.
The EUL pathway involves a rigorous assessment of late phase II and phase III clinical trial data as well as substantial additional data on safety, efficacy, quality and a risk management plan. These data are reviewed by independent experts and WHO teams who consider the current body of evidence on the vaccine under consideration, the plans for monitoring its use, and plans for further studies.
As part of the EUL process, the company producing the vaccine must commit to continue to generate data to enable full licensure and WHO prequalification of the vaccine. The WHO prequalification process will assess additional clinical data generated from vaccine trials and deployment on a rolling basis to ensure the vaccine meets the necessary standards of quality, safety and efficacy for broader availability.