Salt levels in bread voluntarily lowered by Australian manufacturers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th September 2011

The Medical Journal of Australia has published a report which has found that non-government volunteer organisations in Australia and New Zealand have had a positive impact in encouraging bread manufacturers to voluntarily reduce sodium levels in bread products in Australia and New Zealand.

Working together, the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, and the George Institute for Global Health, in Sydney, studied the effectiveness of collaborations between the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (ADWASH) and the Heart Foundation in New Zealand with food manufacturers to voluntarily reduce sodium levels in breads between 2007 and 2010.

In the study, nutrition information data was collected from packaged breads sold at Pak’n’Save and Foodtown/Countdown supermarkets in New Zealand, and Coles and Woolworths in Australia over the four-year period.

Findings showed the proportion of Australian bread products meeting the ADWASH’s maximum level target of 400mg/100g increased from 29% in 2007 to 50% in 2010. Despite this, there was no change in the average sodium concentration of all breads over that time.

Dr Helen Eyles from The University of Auckland’s Clinical Trials Research Unit said, “Bread is the largest contributor to dietary sodium intake in both Australia and New Zealand, and excess sodium can cause blood pressure to rise over time, greatly increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Associate Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu added, “On the whole, our data shows that while non-government organisations’ engagement with the food industry can have some positive impact in lowering sodium there remains substantial room for further improvement and a need for continued action with greater involvement by more sectors of the food industry.

The report notes that in other countries such as in the UK, Finland, the United States and Canada, government leadership has been a central feature of the successful ongoing salt reduction programmes. The Medical Journal of Australia report has not taken an advocacy stance for government intervention