Sodium content in processed foods in Argentina: compliance with the national law

Lorena Allemandi, María Victoria Tiscornia, Miguel Ponce, Luciana Castronuovo, Elizabeth Dunford, Verónica Schoj


Background: Despite the body of evidence that documents the unfavorable effects of excessive sodium consumption on blood pressure and cardiovascular health, public health efforts to decrease sodium consumption have been limited to a few countries. Argentina is the first country in Latin America to regulate sodium content of processed foods by means of a national law. The objective of this cross-sectional quantitative study is to provide a baseline comparison against the reduction targets set by the national law before its entry into force.
Methods: Data were collected in February 2014 in a leading supermarket chain located in Buenos Aires. Nutrient data from package labels were analysed for 1,320 products within 14 food groups during the study period. To compare sodium concentration levels with the established maximum levels we matched the collected food groups with the food groups included in the law resulting in a total of 292 products. Data analysis was conducted using SPSS version 20 software.
Results: Food groups with the highest median sodium content were sauces and spreads (866.7 mg/100 g), meat and meat products (750 mg/100 g) and snack foods (644 mg/100 g). Categories with the highest sodium content were appetizers (1,415 mg/100 g), sausages (1,050 mg/100 g) and ready-made meals (940.7 mg/100 g). We also found large variability within products from the same food categories. Products included in the national law correspond to 22.1% (n=292) of the surveyed foods. From the 18 food groups, 15 showed median sodium values below the established targets. Products exceeding the established maximum levels correspond to 15.1% (n=44) of the products included in the analysis.
Conclusions: This study is the first analysis of food labels to determine sodium concentrations of processed foods in Argentina and to provide a baseline against the national law standards. Upon the completion of this analysis, maximum levels have been achieved by most of the food groups included in the law. Thus, the introduction of further reductions for the existing maximum levels and the establishment of sodium targets for all relevant product categories not included in the law should be considered as the next steps in the process.