Cured meats, cheese and bread: the foods we eat on a daily basis contain a lot of salt. In fact, thousands of lives could be saved if we reduced how much salt we use. Swedes use salt excessively.
"Abroad they don’t have as much salt in their food,” says Anette Jansson, a nutritionist at Livsmedelsverket (the National Food Agency). When the Swedish culinary team tries dishes for competitions, they put more salt in the food for Swedish judges, according to Jansson.
"If the food was that salty when a judge from France or England tasted it, they’d never win,” she explains.

Scandinavians love salt, it’s as easy as that, and the food industry therefore use salt diligently. ”If you ask people in the industry why there’s so much salt in the food, they say it’s because people want it that way. We eat more processed foods, and the food served at restaurants is very salty. A person who eats out every day gets a lot of salt. If you add all these little things up, you get a lot of salt.”
The debate about food preservatives led to the removal of many of them, but it also led to more salt, "Because salt has a preservative effect. But the fact is that salt is more dangerous than the additives we removed. This debate was not a winning one when it comes to public health,” Jansson says.

Reducing salt saves lives...
Salt raises blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. A Danish study shows that if you reduce daily salt intake by 3 grams per person, then 1,000 lives would be saved each year, according to Jansson. The study is relevant for Swedish conditions too, since Swedes eat approximately as much salt as Danes. In Sweden we need to cut our salt intake in half. The problem is that there are high levels of salt in many of the basic foods we eat daily: mostly in the cured meats, but also in ready-to-eat dishes such as ”pyttipanna,” meatballs, hamburgers, gravies, bread and cheese.
Livsmedelsverket has agreed with the industry to cut down salt by 20 percent in cured meats before December 2014, if the products in question are to keep their "nyckelhålsmärkning”—the little keyhole symbol which signifies that a product is a healthier alternative. This means the salt levels will be reduced little by little, so that people won’t start using salt at home, because they think it’s not salty enough. ”How salty you think something is, is a question about habit,” says Jansson. ”If you eat a lot of salt, you like it that way, if you don’t use much salt, it’s the reverse. A person who has cut down on salt doesn’t want much of it anymore.”