Fred Paccaud, from Lausanne’s university hospital system (CHUV), is making waves with an article he published in the online Swiss Medical Forum that calls on Swiss to cut their consumption of food containing salt — including cheese.
In the article Paccaud, director of CHUV’s university institute for social and preventive medicine, worries about the high level of salt in many of the Swiss cheeses.
A high intake of salt has been linked with increased risks of heart disease.
While the World Health Organization recommends a daily intake of five grammes of salt per day, the Swiss consume between eight and 12 grams a day, according to federal government estimates.
Paccaud pointed to bread and cheese as the main causes of this high salt intake.
By reducing this intake, Switzerland could reduce the number of premature deaths in the country by 1,450 a year, he estimated.
Yet, only a third of the Swiss population realize that high levels of salt are harmful to their health, according to a survey, Paccaud said.
The Swiss federal health office, recognizing the issues, launched a 2008-12 strategy that aimed to reduce per capita salt consumption in Switzerland to eight grams a day, a goal the office admits was not met.
Paccaud is recommending that Swiss eat less cheese and that producers cut the amount of salt they use in their products.
Producers are evidently conscious of the concerns.
“We notice that people tend to want to eat food with a level of less and less salt,” Daniel Koller, of the Swiss dairy producers association is quoted as saying by 20 Minutes in a report published on Tuesday.
Koller said it is necessary to adapt to the tastes and wishes of of consumers, which vary over the course of time.
Kurt Schnebli, from Fromarte, the Swiss association of Swiss cheese artisans, said producers have been contacted about reducing the amount of salt in their cheeses.
The only problem is that, for cheeses like gruyére, salt is used as an agent to prevent cheese from going bad during the maturing process.
“We are searching for solutions to know just a what level we can lower the level of salt, but we refuse to reduce it if the safety of the product is not assured,” Schnebli told 20 Minutes.
A study by agricultural scientists at Agroscope revealed that the level of salt could be reduced by as much as 30 percent in numerous Swiss cheeses.
Researchers believe that the amount could even be cut in gruyere, regarded as the saltiest cheese made in Switzerland.
But consumers need to be careful with foreign cheeses too.
When it comes to sodium chloride, varieties such as Roquefort from France and feta from Greece and other countries are even saltier.