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Cutting our addiction to salt, and taking time to read the labels

What can we do without salt? Most Pacific Island communities use it, as an ingredient in their various dishes, and Samoa is no different. Our mothers say salt gives “taste” to the food, and we would be doing injustice to our Island coconut-creamed cuisine without adding a pinch of salt!And there are health benefits too that come with the consumption of salt! Research over the years have shown the importance of salt and how it is vital for the human body, especially in terms of ensuring there is fluid balance in our bodies, and it is a conduit for oxygen and other nutrients that our bodies need. While the benefits of salt consumption are noted, the issue lies in the amount that is consumed on a daily basis. Simply put, our consumption of salt has doubled in recent years, put at risk our own health. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report on salt, which was released close to three years ago, warned that too many people are consuming more salt in their food. The organisation estimates that, “on average 9-12 grams per day, or around twice the recommended maximum level of intake”.The same report also highlighted the link between increased salt consumption and high blood pressure, thereby opening the door to noncommunicable diseases (NCD) such as high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. So what are the safe levels of salt consumption for an individual? The WHO says salt intake of less than 5 grams per day for an adult reduces the risks of blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and coronary heart attack. But it would be high blood pressure that a reduced salt intake would have the most impact on – reduced intake can equate to a risk reduction, according to the WHO report.The WHO estimates that approximately 2.5 million deaths can be prevented annually, if global salt consumption is reduced to recommended levels.Therefore, it is good to see Samoa’s Ministry of Health (MOH) taking a proactive approach, to tackle NCDs by agreeing to regional targets to reduce salt consumption in the region. Samoa will work in partnership with other Pacific Island nations, and have agreed to set targets to gradually reduce salt intake, in an attempt to tackle NCDs.In yesterday’s edition of the Samoa Observer, MOH Principal Nutritionist Christina Soti-Ulberg, said Pacific Island countries have established some targets on the amount of salt that should be in different food products.“The significance of these targets will assist Samoa and our people in combatting NCDS, and with the high salt intake it contributes to raised blood pressure and hypertension, which is a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke.“An example is that we have discussed with local bakeries in regards to some foods like bread and roti to meet the target that has been set of having 400 milligrams of sodium which is part of salt per hundred grams of the food.“Other foods like canned fish which includes tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel and other canned fish must have 430 milligrams of sodium per hundred grams of food,” she said.Mrs. Soti-Ulberg indicated a number of strategies were discussed, including the option of forcing businesses – whose food products did not meet the targets agreed to regionally – being hit with more taxes. While those that met the targets were exempt from paying taxes.We note that WHO member states including Samoa have agreed to a 30 per cent reduction in population sodium (salt) intake by 2025. While the deadline – though six years away – sounds ambitious, we applaud the MOH and its local and regional partners for taking the essential steps needed, to ensure those boxes are ticked. But the fight to tackle NCDs in Samoa – through a reduction in daily salt intake – cannot be done in isolation of the need to also have appropriate labelling on food packaging.Consequently, the appeal by the MOH Assistant CEO (Protection and Enforcement), Mae’e Ualesi Silva, in yesterday’s edition is timely and should be heeded.Mae’e said that the Ministry recently hosted awareness programs on the Food Act 2015 and Food Regulations 2017 – in terms of food labelling requirements – and it is time for businesses to comply. “The second one is to raise awareness on Food Act 2015 and Food Regulations 2017, in terms of food labelling requirements, but we are now overdue with the timeline that was given in the 2017 regulations,” she said.Last September a WHO report estimated that about 70-80 per cent of patients seen by health professionals in Samoa had non-communicable diseases. The same report also found that 50.1 per cent of the country’s adult population is at a high risk of developing a noncommunicable disease, and over 70 per cent of the population never had their blood pressure or blood glucose levels measured. The statistics highlighted in the WHO report are worrying and we can take the first step towards addressing some of those concerns on the dangers of the NCDs by eating wisely and smartly – by reducing our salt intake and taking the time to read food packaging labels, to ensure the contents are healthy and will not impact on our health over the long-term period.Have a wonderful Tuesday Samoa and God bless.

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Street Talk

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Public gives thumbs up to new electoral law

This is a very good idea or amendment. It’s another way to refrain from using political and bias methods during the election because that’s been quite common these days. But yes I very much like this new amendment where people get to go to their real home villages to vote. I live in Upolu, and if this means I would go all the way to Savai'i to vote then I would gladly do so.It is very good in a way that it can help the electoral colleagues to ease their jobs in trying to sort out this and that because I know for sure it wasn’t an easy job before. To add on to my support, it would also be nicer for everyone to vote in their original or their own home village, because it would be fake if you vote for someone you don’t know, just because where you register is too far.I guess it’s something we can use to prevent the people from migrating from island to island, just because they want to vote for whoever they want to vote for. Another thing is that it’s an opportunity for everyone to be part of the development of their home villages. What I mean is like myself, I would love to go back to my village, even if it’s far and travel there to vote for whom I think is best for my village.It’s better for people to go to where they were born or where they’re registered to vote, so it would also showcase that this person belongs here and this person belongs wherever. It can also be an opportunity for other people, who haven’t visited their original villages and families for a long time, so they can go back to where they started and see how it’s been.I strongly support this new amendment. It’s not only because I would love to go back to where I come from or where I was born from – but it’s because if I vote in a place, where the person I’m voting for or even either of the two nominees, do not know me and what I want, what is the use of voting for him or her? I would rather go back to my home village and vote for the person that I know, is suitable for the position to take care of the people and even myself and my children.I think this should’ve been implemented during the previous elections already. In the past elections, I didn’t think it was right for anyone to just vote for whoever is being nominated, at where he or she is staying at. Most people don’t live at their real homes and they voted for people they don’t know, which is not right so with this new amendment, I’m happy that people will finally go back to where they came from and vote.

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Letter to Editor

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“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…”

Me thinks Pr. Samoa Unoi of the Peace Chapel Christian Fellowship protests far too much when found out about his involvement with cryptocurrency. And in spite of his job description, I find nothing peaceful about his language. It’s also hard to believe he does not really care about the money he invests in cryptocurrency as he repeatedly claims. It only makes one wonder about the origin of such money. As for his rave against government interfering in how he spends money, the good pastor ought to know that the Central Bank of Samoa is duty bound to warn the people of Samoa about money scams that come to Samoa from overseas. The Bank is only doing its job as all good shepherds should.And in any case, the Central Bank did not tell the good preacher what to do with his money or with his flock’s money for that matter. What the Bank did was give a blanket warning about the dangers of these shady get-rich-quick money schemes, in the same way it warns people about pyramid schemes and counterfeit currency. And the good pastor may not be concerned about throwing money away, which incidentally is not what a faithful steward would do with heaven’s blessings. But most people do, and they will find the Central Bank’s warning of great value in avoiding being scammed. In fact, this is not the first time the good preacher has publicly shared his thoughts about money. The first time was to oppose the government’s proposal to tax church ministers like himself. He did not want to pay taxes and is one of only a few church ministers that spoke out publicly on the subject. As for Pr. Unoi’s claims about losing money by investing in UTOS, if true, he would be among a very select few who have had that happen to them. It makes you wonder whether the good preacher is not confusing UTOS with some other get-rich-quick scheme he is dabbling in.But no wonder the Good Shepherd told his followers to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth, nor rust doth corrupt, or where thieves do not break through nor steal” And if He was around on earth today, Jesus will no doubt have included as well all ge- rich-Squick scammers and prophets.F.S. SheepSamoa.

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