Nutrition groups around the world are urging the food and beverage industry to replace salt with "reduced sodium and added potassium," and a large study of dietary interventions concluded that millions of people could benefit each year from "simple substitution."
Sonia Pombo, campaign director of Action on Salt, says the study provides further strong evidence that such interventions can work in the real world. For the sake of public health, the food and nutrition industry should make this transition. The study's researcher, Professor Bruce Neal of the George Institute for Global Health, echoed this advice, saying that switching to salt as a salt substitute was a viable and low-cost opportunity that could bring health benefits.
Sodium and potassium are not one-to-one substitutes, but the combination can lower the overall sodium content. Most salt substitutes used by the food industry contain 25 to 30 percent potassium chloride and 70 to 75 percent sodium chloride. Potash alternatives are also common in the UK, often containing about 60 per cent less sodium than standard table salt. The benefit of salt substitutes is that they can help companies further reduce sodium in foods, especially those that have struggled to do so so far. This is particularly relevant for foods with technical or safety requirements for salt, such as bacon and meat products.
When it comes to obstacles to implementation, price is likely to be a key factor, as salt itself is a cheap commodity. Still, many potassium salts are edible and are available to all households in almost all countries. Salt substitutes are a little more expensive than regular salt, however, they are still very low-cost and families can make the switch for just a few dollars a year.
Overall, the benefits of salt substitutes outweigh the potential risks, according to the UK's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), in collaboration with the Committee on The Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT). The groups recommended that the government encourage the food industry to consider using salt substitutes to reduce the salt content of foods. This is consistent with the recommendations of the George Institute for Global Health. Notably, the World Health Organization also recently set a global benchmark in food categories, limiting salt intake to 5 grams per day.