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country. Soon after, Finnish media, particularly the leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, began releasing numerous reports on the harmful health effects of salt and helped to raise public (and government) awareness of salt and salt alternatives (Karppanen and Mervaala, 2006).

In 1993, salt-labeling legislation was implemented by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health for food categories that contribute high amounts of sodium to the diet, such as manufactured food items and meals, requiring that such foods be labeled with the percentage of “salt (NaCl) by fresh weight of the product” (Pietinen et al., 2007). The legislation also requires a “high salt content” label on foods that contain high levels of sodium and allows foods low in sodium to carry a “low salt” label (see Table C-1). Other labels in use include the Pansalt logo (used on products with sodium-reduced, potassium- and magnesium-enriched mineral salts) and the “Better Choice” label that was put in use by the Finnish Heart Association in 2000 (He and MacGregor, 2009; Karppanen and Mervaala, 2006).

Monitoring of salt intake is conducted as part of FINRISK, a survey conducted every 5 years that includes an assessment of urinary sodium excretion. A study conducted between 1997 and 1999, using FINRISK surveys, estimated that 21 percent of sodium intake in households came from table salt (down from 30 percent in 1980) and about 70 percent came from processed foods (Reinivuo et al., 2006). By 2002, mean sodium intake was 3,900 mg/d for men and 2,700 mg/d for women. At that time, the most significant sources of sodium in Finnish diets (> 40 percent of intake) were meat dishes and bread. Fish, sausage dishes, and savory baked goods were

TABLE C-1 “High Salt Content” and “Low Salt” Label Requirements in Finland

Food Category

NaCl Content of Food Item (%)

High Salt Content Label Required

Low Salt Label Allowed


> 1.3

≤ 0.7


> 1.8

≤ 1.2


> 1.4

≤ 0.7

Butter (voluntary)

> 2.0

≤ 1.0

Breakfast cereals

> 1.7

≤ 1.0

Crisp bread

> 1.7

≤ 1.2

Fish products

≤ 1.0

Soups, sauces, ready-made dishes

≤ 0.5

SOURCE: Karppanen and Mervaala, 2006.

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