PUTRAJAYA: Malaysians, on the average, consume 7.15g of salt daily, higher than the 5g recommended by the World Health Organisation, said Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam.
He said a 2015 pilot study by the health ministry showed that people, aged 18 and above, consumed more salt.
Such consumption could lead to hypertension and result in heart disease and stroke that could be fatal, he told reporters in conjunction with World Salt Awareness Week 2018 that started on March 12 here today.
Subramaniam said many people were unaware that they were consuming excessive salt in their daily diet.
“The people have to change the culture of salt intake and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
“There is a need to reduce the intake of salt to ensure good health,” he said.
Subramaniam said that among the 20 types of food often eaten that contributed to the highest salt intake were fried rice, omelette, nasi lemak, roti canai, meat soup, instant noodles, sambal belacan, budu, salted fish, snacks, canned food and processed food.
“When we eat at home or in a restaurant, there is surely a bottle of soy sauce on the table.
“Automatically, people will want to add soy sauce to their food,” he said referring to one of the contributing factors.
The others, he said, are dark soya sauce, oyster sauce, chilli/tomato sauce and seasoning stock.
“I urge Malaysians to be more concerned about reducing their salt intake to 5g daily, or less than one teaspoon a day.
“I believe salt consumption is difficult to control, especially among children because they like to eat crackers and fast food.
“The health ministry is working with the education ministry to ensure that canteen operators provide healthy food to pupils and students.”
Subramaniam said the main message of the World Salt Awareness Week, which carries the theme “5 Ways to 5 Grammes”, was to remind the people of the effects of excessive salt intake and to suggest five steps how they could avoid this.
These steps were: to choose healthy foods; read and compare labels before buying food; gradually reduce salt in favourite recipes; avoid serving salt, soy sauce and sauces during meals; and replacing salt with spices and natural seasoning when cooking and adding seasoning.
“Eat more vegetables and fruits and reduce the intake of processed food. People are strongly encouraged to often eat at home and bring home-cooked food to the workplace,” he said.
Subramaniam, who is MIC president, also said that the ministry was expediting the regulation on mandatory sodium labelling for all processed food products and was working with the food industry to implement the Food Product Reformulation.
Nevertheless, he said, all efforts aimed at reducing the salt content in high salt-content products were in the early stages of implementation and required commitment and support from all individuals and the parties involved.
“Hopefully, all these efforts to reduce salt intake can help to prevent and control high blood pressure and its complications, and thus reduce premature deaths among Malaysians.
”Studies show that one out of three adults in the country suffer from high blood pressure while one out of five adults do not know that they have the disease,” he said.