Australian salt intake too high but manufacturers making progress in salt reduction

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 22nd May 2009

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has reported that around 34 per cent of Australians are consuming too much salt but indicated that media reports might have exaggerated the over consumption.

“Recent media reports suggest that Australians regularly consumed more than 40 g sodium chloride (salt) a day,” FSANZ noted. “In contrast, FSANZ’s estimates showed that 95% of Australians consume less than 8.5 g of salt each day, with the highest daily salt consumption calculated for an individual to be 26 g.”

Australians consume an average of 2.2 g of sodium per day from sodium chloride, FSANZ advised, with 80 per cent coming from processed food.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council this week said the food industry had acknowledged and was constantly striving to improve their offerings.

“We … know that most of the salt intake comes from many of our every day foods so we have been working with the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) and the National Heart Foundation to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods,” AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said. “This is an ongoing process as companies must ensure that their products remain appealing to consumers in terms of taste and convenience.”

Food contribution

The foods that contribute the most to Australians’ sodium chloride (salt) consumption are bread and bread rolls (25%), meat, poultry & game products and dishes, including processed meat (21%), cereal products and cereal based dishes (e.g. biscuits and pizza) (17%), savoury sauces and condiments (8%) and cheese (5%). Breakfast cereals contribute approximately 4% of total salt consumption from processed foods and dried soup mixes less than 3%, the food standards body reported.

FSANZ, which monitors the salt levels in Australian food, said that the food industry had been successful in reducing salt in the last couple of years but there remains potential for further improvement.

“The food industry has been reducing salt in various products and survey results indicate that levels of sodium in some processed foods have declined in recent years,” they advised. “For example, sodium levels in margarine, savoury biscuits, soup and mayonnaise were lower compared to previous studies. Average sodium values for various foods tested in recent FSANZ programs are presented in the table below.”