Arguments over reformulation and salt intake

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 6th August 2012

Suggested mandatory food reformulation supporters are ramping up the debate after research released this month (August 2012) claimed diet and exercise campaigns are so ineffective at preventing heart disease that they should be abandoned in favour of more active government involvement in food reformulation and encouragement of medication use.

Professor Bruce Neal, Senior Director at The George Institute and Chairman of the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH), is advocating a need for the government to impose stricter food composition regulations.

“It’s important to remember that it’s not just the salt people add at the table that matters.   Most salt is hidden in processed and fast foods so that even people who don’t add salt are still eating far more salt than is good for them,” Professor Neal said.

“We have to frame this as something other than a call upon the individual to do the right thing… We need the help of Government,” he added.

The Australian Government’s Food and Health Dialogue, which began in 2009, is a forum of government and food industry representatives working to assist Australians in modifying risk behaviours, such as poor dietary habits, that contribute to preventable chronic diseases.

However Professor Neal claims that steps towards reformulation were ‘glacial,’ and unlikely to deliver much benefit to Australians.

Managing Principal of FoodLegal, Joe Lederman, questioned Professor Neal’s suggestion that progress was ‘glacial.’

Mr Lederman cited the March 2012 announcement by leading pie manufacturers that they were joining major retailers Woolworths, Coles and Aldi in reducing salt levels in their products.

Mr Lederman also pointed out that in November 2011, leading food manufacturers and retailers voluntarily agreed to reduce salt levels in soup products over the next three years.

Mr Lederman’s FoodLegal firm is also running a Symposium on the 21 August 2012 in Sydney about the new Health Claims standard. He said that the issues concerning food marketing eligibility criteria for making health-related marketing claims was an important subject. Bookings for the Symposium are able to be made here.