By POUNGCHOMPOO PRASERT
THE PUBLIC Health Ministry is pushing for Cabinet approval of a law reducing the amount of salt and sodium in food products to less than 20 per cent current amounts.
Thais often eat food that is twice as salty as recommended, resulting in a 15 per cent annual increase of patients with kidney problems, according to a recent study.
Disease Control Department deputy chief Dr Asadang Ruayajin said his agency’s non-communicable disease control office was formulating rules to keep salt and sodium in food products at healthy levels.
The first products to face the tough new controls would be canned food and crispy snacks, which would be limited to levels reduced by 20 per cent, Asadang told a press conference at Bangkok-based Ramathibodi Hospital on Monday. The regulations would also list the punishment for violations, which could include imprisonment and fines, he said.
The reduction of salt and sodium to prevent non-communicable diseases is a national issue and the ministry needs co-operation from related agencies including the Industry Ministry, the Commerce Ministry and local administrative organisations to oversee products and food outlets, he added.
Dr Surasak Kantachuvesiri, chairman of the Low Salt Thailand Network, said Thais consumed food that had double the recommended dose of salt, resulting in as many as 11 million patients with high blood pressure. He said medical costs for patients with non-communicable diseases paid for by the country’s three healthcare schemes amounted to Bt5 billion a year. The cost of long-term care for heart disease and paralysis patients pushed that figure to Bt10 billion per year, he added.
Surasak said the youngest person to require dialysis at Ramathibodi Hospital was just 27 years old.
Centre for Health Policy and Management director Dr Wiwat Rojanapitthayakorn said reductions of salt and sodium consumption could be accomplished by influencing people who cook at home, restaurants and the packaged food industry.
The ministry plans to gradually reduce levels of salt and sodium by 10 per cent in the first year, and by another 10 per cent subsequently to phase in the law.