Salt reduction: Australia lagging on reformulation targets

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 19th May 2011

photofries-crop.jpgThe George Institute for Global Health has called on the Government to take tougher action on reformulating products to reduce salt, in an effort to reduce hypertension (or high blood pressure) – a condition caused mostly by salt, which kills large numbers of Australians each year through strokes, heart attacks and heart failure.

The UK, US and Canada are far ahead of Australia in salt reduction, having set targets for 80 food categories, compared to Australia’s 9. The UK has already posted a reduction in national salt intake, saving thousands of lives each year.

New research, to be published in the Journal of Hypertension, shows 32 countries now have national programs to reduce population salt intake. Central to the success of these programs is the establishment of targets for the maximum amount of salt in different foods.

“There is a huge body of evidence showing that salt is the main cause of high blood pressure which kills thousands of people each year – mostly through premature strokes, heart attacks and heart failure. The new research shows how countries around the world are responding to this evidence by implementing national salt reduction programs. Australia needs to do the same,” said Jacqui Webster, lead author of the report in the Journal of Hypertension and Senior Project Manager at The George Institute for Global Health.

“Some food companies in Australia have been reducing salt levels, but the government urgently needs to take tougher action to ensure faster progress. Just nine targets set by the Food and Health Dialogue to date is weak compared to other countries. That’s why The George Institute announced 85 new salt targets for foods to give industry the direction they’ve been asking for. We’ll be working closely with companies to help them reduce salt in line with these interim targets in support of ongoing Food and Health Dialogue discussions.”

Globally, 7 million people die and 1.5 billion suffer every year because of high blood pressure levels. It is the single biggest risk factor for death worldwide causingheart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. Salty diets increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and reducing population salt intakes is a very cost effective strategy for reducing blood pressure levels, with huge benefits for public health.

World Hypertension Day has been established to highlight the preventable stroke, heart disease and kidney diseases caused by high blood pressure and to communicate to the public information on prevention, detection and treatment. Each year, May 17th is designated World Hypertension Day.