Front of Package Labeling; a move to reduce excessive salt intake in Cameroon
Non-communicable diseases represent 35% of annual deaths in Cameroon (WHO 2018). The
prevalence of Hypertension, an avoidable risk factor for stroke and other cardiovascular
diseases (CVDs), is reported at 29-31% with more than 60% undiagnosed cases in communities
and only 14% being aware of their status (Kingue et., al. 2015). These alarming figures are
partly linked to excess salt intake among people. A modeling study by Aminde et al (2019) on
the potential impact of a modest reduction in salt intake on blood pressure, cardiovascular
disease burden and premature mortality showed that reducing salt intake by the recommended
WHO target of 30% could lead to a 16.8% reduction in premature mortality from cardiovascular
diseases (CVDs) in Cameroon by 2030.
The Reconciliation and Development Association, a member of the Cameroon NCD Alliance
therefore benchmarked and advanced the study to develop the front-of-package labeling
(FOPL) on salt usage and intake in Cameroon. Front-of-package warning labeling is a simple,
practical and effective tool to inform the public about products that can harm health and help
guide purchasing decisions.
Policies frameworks and regulations on the consumption of products containing excessive
amounts of sugars, total fats, saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium (salt) have not been a point
of focus in Cameroon. Like many other African countries, the main contributor to salt intake in
Cameroon is the daily addition of salt to food. In addition, the habit of reading food labels is
low, compounded by no labels at all, or invisible and persuasive labels that highly influence
consumers’ choices and decision-making process when purchasing products.
The Front Package Labeling in Cameroon a project supported by Resolve to Save Lives started in
March 2021, with a mini laboratory setup to conduct a food audit, and measured the amount of
sodium in food products as per the AFRO Nutrient Profile Model. Within six months of
implementation, the front of the package warning label for Cameroon was also developed using
a human-centered design process. 14 focus group discussions across two regions representing
the sociopolitical diversity of the country were conducted to determine the triangular-shaped
warning and its elements which were then designed for testing in the field.
Currently, a randomized controlled trial of the warning label with four other labels including a
bar code has been completed. The dissemination process of the findings with
recommendations on the legislation needed to expedite salt reduction and also reduction in
consumption of sugars, saturated fats and calories will be released soon.