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Food makers agree to reduce salt

Manufacturers to reduce sodium in 51 products favored by children; ramen makers reluctant

The Korea Food and Drug Administration said it had got agreements from food manufacturers to reduce the salt content of some products.

The food agency on Wednesday said makers of sauce, ketchup, salad dressings and retort foods have agreed to voluntarily reduce the amount of sodium used in 51 products popular with children.

Makers will reducer the salt content of readymade jjajang, spaghetti and udong sauces by 5 percent. They have also agreed to reductions of up to 10 percent in salad dressings and up to 43 percent in porridge and other foods, the KFDA said.

Lotte, one of Korea’s largest food and snack makers, will cut down salt use by 4.4 percent for its carbonara spaghetti sauce while Ottogi will decrease 2.7 percent of salt usage in sauce for steamed rice. Daesang decided to cut the amount of salt in its sesame dressing by 10 percent and promised to slash the amount in future products by up to 43.3 percent. 

“Cutting down on sodium intake is very important for people, especially children who are still growing. We are pleased that food manufacturers favored by the young population have decided to prioritize on consumers’ health,” said Kang Baek-won, a KFDA official.

“It is time the government, businesses and consumers work together to reduce overall sodium intake for the sake of people’s health,” he said.

The move is part of government efforts to bring down Korea’s average salt intake of 10 grams a day ― double what the World Health Organization recommends.

Salt is one of the major causes of hypertension, renal diseases and other health problems. The Korean Society of Hypertension said an additional 5 grams of salt a day raised the chance of dying from a stroke by 40 percent and from ischemic heart disease by 60 percent.

However, Koreans’ preference for savory and spicy foods has clearly hindered people from reducing their salt intake.

According to a previous KFDA study of 2,500 salaried workers here, about 70 percent of the surveyed people needed to cut down their sodium consumption.
In August last year, the KFDA asked instant noodle makers to reduce the amount of salt they use, which can be up to 5 grams per serving, the entire amount recommended by the WHO.

Nongshim, Samyang and Paldo have been reluctant to change their products because they believe even a very small change in the salt content would affect the whole flavor of the product.

“We are seeking alternatives, but things are not easy,” a noodle maker said.

The agency has also teamed up with local governments and the Korea Foodservice Industry Association in designating 114 restaurants nationwide to serve foods with an average of 14 percent less sodium.

“At first, restaurateurs were reluctant, fearing that a reduction of salt could lead to reduction of customers. However, they also agreed that healthier foods will be the next ‘it item,’” said a Busan government official to a local daily.

“We are currently under development of recipes with less sodium but equal or better flavor. Once settled, it could encourage other restaurant owners to join our campaign,” a KFDA official said.

By Bae Ji-sook (