Salt levels in Australian foods rise 9 per cent, despite salt-reduction targets

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th October 2012

Salt levels in Australian food have risen to a ‘deeply alarming’ level according to the Heart Foundation, based on a report by the George Institute for Global Health. The report found that hidden salt in Australian foods has risen 9 per cent in three years, despite pressure from Australian health authorities for salt-reduction in foods.

Researchers from the George Institute for Global Health looked at around 28,000 food products and found that, on average, salt levels increased by 9% between 2008 and 2011. Sodium levels rose 16 per cent in oils and 13 per cent in sauces and spreads. The study attributed most of Australia’s salt intake to salt hidden in processed foods and not to ‘directly adding it at the table.’

Previously reported in Australian Food News, the Heart Foundation states the average Australian eats around nine grams of salt a day, much more than the maximum of six grams recommended by the Heart Foundation. Dr Robert Grenfell, National Cardiovascular Health Director at the Heart Foundation, said that ‘cutting the nation’s salt intake by three grams a day would prevent an estimated 6,000 Australian deaths a year due to heart disease.’

Dr Grenfell said that the Heart Foundation is ‘very concerned’ about hidden salt in Australian food. According to Dr Grenfell, the Heart Foundation is pushing for salt reductions across numerous food categories as part of the Federal Government’s Food and Health Dialogue.

The Federal Government’s Food and Health Dialogue requires food manufacturers to set individual salt-reduction targets. Supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths have committed to salt-reduction, as well as many ‘big brands.’

Choice survey finds ‘salt-reduced’ products still contain high levels of salt

Despite the commitments to salt-reduction, a recent Choice survey of 195 ‘salt-reduced’ cereals found that salt levels were still high in the products. The Choice survey reported that Kelloggs, Sanitarium and Aldi brand breakfast cereal versions of ‘corn flakes’ and ‘rice bubbles’ still had significant salt content, despite reductions of at least 20 per cent since the last Choice survey.

Choice said that although improvements in salt-reduction had been noted since their last review, many of the Australian cereals ‘did not deserve the healthy image they portray.’

‘We think more energy should be devoted to reducing the sodium and sugar content of cereals, particularly those targeted at children,’ Choice spokesperson, Ingrid Just said.

The latest salt-reduction reports from the George Institute for Global Health and Choice follow an Australian Food News article on increased salted flavour trends, reported earlier this week.