Sodium Content and Labelling Completeness of Packaged Foods and Beverages in Kenya
Coyle, Daisy H.
Wu, Jason H. Y.
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Increased consumption of unhealthy processed foods, particularly those high in sodium, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Nutrition information on packaged foods can help guide consumers toward products with less sodium, however the availability of nutrition information on foods sold in Kenya is currently unknown. The aims of this study were to estimate the proportion of packaged foods and beverages displaying nutrition information for sodium and determine the amount of sodium in packaged foods available for sale in Kenya. Data was collected in 2019 from five retail supermarkets in Nairobi. The availability of sodium information provided on packaged products and the sodium content were recorded. As secondary analyses, we compared sodium content labelling of products in Kenya by manufacturing location and the sodium content of products available in Kenya and South Africa. A total of 6003 packaged products in 56 food categories were identified. Overall, 39% of products displayed sodium content, though the availability of labelling varied widely between food categories, with coverage in main categories ranging from 0% (yoghurts and yoghurt drinks) to 86% (breakfast cereals). Food categories with the highest median sodium content were herbs and spices (9120 mg/100 g), sauces (1200 mg/100 g) and meat alternatives (766 mg/100 g) although wide variabilities were often observed within categories. Imported products were more likely to provide information on sodium than locally produced products (81% compared to 26%) and reported higher median sodium levels (172 mg/100 g compared to 96 mg/100 g). Kenyan products reported a higher median sodium content than South African products in six categories while South African products had higher median sodium in 20 categories, with considerable variation in median sodium content between countries in some categories. These findings highlight considerable potential to improve the availability of sodium information on packaged products in Kenya and to introduce reformulation policies to reduce the amount of sodium in the Kenyan food supply