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Hidden salt in breads of Blantyre (Malawi) and labelling practices: A national wake-up call

Aggrey Pemba Gama
C Ching’anda


A study was carried out to the determine amount of salt in breads sold in five major retail shops in Blantyre (Malawi). Determined salt concentrations were compared with declared values on labels. In addition, the study also assessed labelling practices among bread manufacturers to check compliance with labelling regulations in Malawi. Six brands of breads were sampled from the five major retail shops. Twelve samples were collected for each of the six brands of bread herein designated as bread 1, bread 2, bread 3, bread 4, bread 5 and bread 6. The study found that average concentration of sodium in the breads ranged from 1.7 g/100 g to 2.6 g/100 g. Significant differences of sodium content were observed in four brands of bread; bread 1, bread 2, bread 4 and bread 5 (p<0.05). No significant difference was observed between bread 3 and bread 6 (p>0.05). None of the sampled breads had declared sodium content. All the breads complied with Malawi requirements for general labelling of breads. However, all the breads did not comply with nutrition labelling guidelines. The study reveals policy gap, in Malawi, on salt reduction in foods. The study also reveals regulation and regulation enforcement gaps that need to be urgently addressed to improve the current situation. Considering the results in this study, the authors recommend that Malawi should develop policies to support reduction of salt in food products such as bread to minimise risks associated with high salt intake. The authors also recommend enforcement of Malawi standard for nutrition labelling by the relevant authorities and a complete national survey to assess understanding of nutrition labelling among manufactures. Furthermore, the authors recommend urgent revision of 1985 Malawi standard for common bread, currently in use, to include sodium content limits as one way of initiating a reduction of sodium content in breads being sold on the market.

Keywords: salt reduction, bread, labelling, standard, Malawi, hypertension, sodium, consumer