Concerns are rising over health authorities’ plan to relax salt content limits on instant noodle products that aim to be certified as good-quality snacks for kids.
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety announced its plan on Wednesday to ease the sodium limit of the products from the current cap of 600 milligrams to 1,000 milligrams. The new sodium limit of 1,000 milligrams is more than half the recommended limit for a child’s daily consumption of sodium ― between 1,500 and 1,800 milligrams a day.
But the plan instantly met criticism, as it was seen to be at odds with the ministry’s nationwide low-salt intake campaign.
The ministry said the plan was drawn up because it found the local food industry’s requests reasonable.
The food companies have been demanding eased certification criteria for instant noodles produced for kids, saying they need to add a certain amount of sodium to have the products taste like instant noodles. Of the 70 certified kids’ snacks, only one instant noodle product has met the criteria so far.
The ministry defended its position, saying that even if it raised the sodium level to 1,000 milligrams, the products would still contain much less salt than other regular instant noodles that often have more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium. Therefore, products that satisfied the new criteria could be categorized as ministry-certified snacks for kids, an official said.
A ministry-certified kids’ food product must meet a specific nutritional level. Such products get a “smile mark” from the ministry to let consumers know that they contain low levels of saturated fat and salt. To be certified, a product should not contain any artificial preservatives or colorings either.
Some experts urged the agency to keep its current criteria because the certification system was launched to push companies to produce safe, nutritionally rich food.
In the face of widespread criticism, the ministry said the plan could be revised. “The announcement was made to collect various ideas, not to immediately apply the new criteria,” the official said.
The Korean government has been promoting low-salt food guidelines to curb Koreans’ excessive sodium intake. The average Korean adult takes in 4,800 milligrams of sodium each day, more than twice the level recommended by the World Health Organization.
The WHO recommends that adults restrict their sodium intake to less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium, equivalent to 5 grams of salt per day, and have at least 3,510 mg of potassium per day. Salty food raises the risk of hypertension, experts said.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)