Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), Corporate Accountability for Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), and the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) have urged the Nigerian government to expedite the development and enforcement of regulations for salt targets in processed foods.
The Technical Advisor (NHED), Dr Jerome Mafeni, while briefing newsmen on “Healthy Diets: Set Salt Targets to Expand Access to Healthy Foods” in Abuja on Tuesday, said excessive salt consumption has become a pressing public health concern in Nigeria, contributing to the rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and stroke.
According to him, studies have shown that high salt intake is a major risk factor for these diseases, and it is estimated that NCDs account for 29% of all deaths in Nigeria.
He called for collaboration with relevant government agencies to establish clear guidelines and targets for salt reduction in different food categories.
On the health Implications, Mafeni explained that high salt intake is directly linked to increased blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
” Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for a significant number of premature deaths and disabilities in Nigeria.
“By reducing salt intake, we can significantly lower the incidence of hypertension and related diseases, leading to improved health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs.
He said the regulations won’t just address the rising challenges of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), but also foster a culture of healthier eating, creating a positive impact on the overall health of the nation.
The Executive Director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Akinbode Oluwafemi said
these alarming statistics are not surprising given the significant changes in the Nigerian diet over the past decade.
He further said the influx of processed foods and seasonings loaded with high sodium on local market shelves and the growth of unhealthy fast- food outlets has led to a nutritional transition in the country that poses a grave nisk to public health.
“Added to this risk is the recent reports of unbranded and unmeasured seasoning overtaking the markets in Northern Nigeria. In no distant time, the woes of these unchecked sales of Monosodium glutamate will manifest.
“To protect Nigerians, the Federal Ministry of health and Social Welfare (FMHSW) and National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) must take proactive steps to formulate healthy food policies and enforce them within the country.
” It is also imperative for competent agencies responsible for legislation and implementation of food safety standards in Nigeria to develop effective strategies for the regulation of large food industries, SMEs, and street food vendors, to set mandatory salt limits for all food products in compliance with global best practices.
“This will not only aid the enforcement of existing regulations like the #Transfat FreeNigeria regulation, but it will also provide room for advancing complimentary regulations that will take away foods that are injurious to our health,” he said.