(From left) Dr. V Prakash, Vice President, International Union of Nutrition Sciences; Dr. L. Gamlath, Director - Environmental, Occupational Health and Food Safety, Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine; Visakha Siriwardena, President, Nutrition Society of Sri Lanka; Dr. Thilak Siriwardena, Director, Non-Communicable Disease Unit, Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine and Dr. Andre Pots, South Asia R&D Director - Foods, Unilever)

The International Union of Nutrition Sciences (IUNS), in partnership with the Nutrition Society of Sri Lanka and Unilever, hosted a conference on April 25 in Colombo to gain insights and identify key challenges in reducing salt in the diet of Sri Lankans. Reducing a person’s daily intake of salt is widely recommended by scientific and regulatory organizations the world over as an important measure in reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases. Those in attendance at the event represented the processed food industry, nutrition-related professionals, consumer groups and policy makers.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended daily salt intake is five grams, this is vastly contrasted to Sri Lankans, who consume about 11.4 grams of salt per day. (Review of Salt and Health: Situation in South‐East Asia Region; WHO Technical working group meeting on regional action plan & targets for prevention and control NCDs; Bankok, Thailand; June 2013). The conference aimed at tackling this issue by brokering a greater understanding and consensus amongst the government, food manufacturers and professionals.

President of the Nutrition Society of Sri Lanka, Visakha Thilekarathna said, “The purpose of this conference was to bring all key stakeholders together to develop a concerted effort to reducing salt from the Sri Lankan diet. We are extremely encouraged by the commitment from the government and all the stakeholders who participated today, and we’re quite confident that we can take forward concrete actions from today’s meeting.”
Unilever Sri Lanka played the role of corporate facilitator at the conference, with no brand promotions, recognizing its alignment to Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, which aims to help 1 billion people improve their health and wellbeing.

“Unilever is proud to support this initiative which is perfectly aligned with our values and objectives. We recognized the importance of reducing the daily salt intake more than a decade ago and have been working to reduce salt in our portfolio of products. We are glad to see the overwhelming participation of all parties to increase consumer awareness on this subject. Salt reduction in products by food manufacturers is a must but is only one part of the solution. A joined effort from nutritionists, health professionals and authorities is required to ensure a long term healthy salt consumption,” said Dr. Andre Pots, Research and Development Director at Unilever Foods, South Asia.

After much deliberation, this resulted in an action plan being agreed to by all those involved with clear areas of responsibility and avenues for progress. The IUNS is an international body focusing on promoting advancement in nutrition sciences, research and development through international cooperation at the global level. They focus on global issues in nutrition such as non-communicable diseases and obesity.

The Nutrition Society of Sri Lanka, established in 1972 and incorporated by Parliamentary Act No. 5 in 1985, aims to promote the science of nutrition and its application to the health of the population and the country.