Feature Article of Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Columnist: Owusu, Stephen Atta

Chifu Salt Advert on Radio: Dangerous and Misleading

Ghana Salt Industry produces between 250,000 to 300,000 tons of salt annually. The salt industries in Ghana have become major foreign exchange earners for the country. Economists in Ghana believe that the industry has the potential to produce 2.2 million tons annually. The salt is also of good quality. However, the present salt advert on radios in Ghana is irresponsible. The latest salt in the Ghanaian market has a brand name: Chifu Salt. What is frightening is the aggressive marketing of the salt on radio and television to make it seem like harmless no matter which quantity is taken. Imagine a lady in the advert saying that her beauty has improved thanks to Chifu salt. Yet the Standards board, Food and Drugs Board and the general public look on.

In Ghana the amount of salt we take into our bodies far exceeds the recommended levels with a large percentage coming from processed foods. It is necessary to advise people to cut down on salt intake to prevent heart problems. We should not be inducing them by adverts to take in more salt as if the Chifu brand is safer than other salts. The Food and Drugs Board must take steps to stop the unsavoury advert which poses potential danger to the health of Ghanaians.

The body cells essentially need sodium in order to help maintain water balance in the body as well as regulating blood volume and blood pressure. Very unfortunate enough, most diets eaten by Ghanaians have unacceptably high salt contents. According to research, the maximum limit of sodium per person should be 2300mg a day. However, most Ghanaians eat two times that amount and the aggressive and most misleading advert of Chifu salt is not helping the situation at all. About 40% of salt intake in Ghana comes from processed foods, about 50% from adding salt directly to food in Ghanaian homes and 10% occurs naturally in foods.

Ghanaians must be educated about the health problems associated with increased salt intake rather than being wooed by adverts to abuse salt intake which can subsequently elevate blood pressures (hypertension). This increases the risk of heart attack, kidney diseases, and stroke. It is therefore clear, according to the extreme intake of salt by Ghanaians, that approximately 90% of Ghanaians will develop hypertension in their lifetimes. Often we do not even discover this ailment until it is too late leading to untimely deaths.

The amount of salt in the food we take in, is approximated by researchers as follows:

- cooked sausage: 790mg

- breakfast cereal: 780mg

- butter:780mg

- margarine: 720mg

- milk: 36mg

- pizza: 550mg (now becoming a favourite item for Ghanaians who think it is chic)

-potato chips (salt + vinegar):1,180mg.(now also very popular in Ghana).

The craze for sausages, cheese and butter may be the result of globalisation changing the food habits of Ghanaians. Many Ghanaians have also lived abroad where they acquired such eating habits.

The appropriate authorities in Ghana must ensure that there is reconciliation between media freedom and customer protection. This will prevent the media playing on the ignorance and gullibility of the consumer. The risk for hypertension, kidney diseases and stroke as a result of being induced to take more salt through adverts like Chifu salt must be blamed squarely on the inaction of government, standard board, food and drugs board and the media commission. If Ghana indeed has consumer protection policy, and really thinks of the well-being of the people, then this Chifu salt advert must stop immediately. The radio must be used to educate people on the dangers of excessive intake of salt.

A national legislation must be put in place, if there is not one there already, for Ghana to have detailed rules about the type of marketing practices and adverts companies are allowed to make in all the mediums of communication in Ghana.

We also need consumer protection civil society bodies (NGOs) but no private individual Ghanaians are willing to form such organisations. They are more interested in those types of organisations that they can use to beg for money abroad which they invariably divert into their pockets...

Written by: Stephen Atta Owusu

Author: Dark Faces At Crossroads

Email: stephen.owusu@email.com