Australian processors urged to drop the salt

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt, Food, Australia

Australian food processors and formulators are set to come under
further pressure to reformulate their products as the country's
latest "Drop The Salt!" campaign kicks off in Sydney
today.

The five year project is part of a national effort to reduce salt, particularly within Australian processed foods, over concerns that the industry is not doing enough to reduce consumers salt intake. A survey commissioned for the campaign by the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) revealed that the country's consumers are increasingly aware of the dangers posed by salt, but few are actually reducing their intake. "Most Australians are eating well above the 6 grams per day recommended by the National Heart Foundation ofAustralia,"​ stated AWASH chairperson, Dr Bruce Neal. "It is not well understood that almost everyone's health is being adversely affected by the salt they eat." ​ Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but AWASH considers the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, far too high. In many countries, such as the UK and the USA, over 80 per cent of salt intake comes from processed food. 20 per cent of salt intake comes from meat and meat products, and about 35 per cent from cereal and cereal products. Awash believes that by working with the industry to lower daily salt intake over the next five years to six grams per person a day, heart attack and stroke rates can be reduced by one fifth each year. Though praising some steps already taken by Australian food processors in achieving these goals, AWASH added that they still had much more to do to push healthier product formulation. The claims have received backing from both health organisations, and some leading food industry figures. Peter Slator, chairman of Unilever's Australasian operations said that the company was already working on salt reduction, but accepted that more was required on its part. "I believe the food industry has a key role to play in reducing the salt intake of the population,"​ he stated. "We have been reducing salt for several decades now and are committed to further action."​ However, commenting on the issue last month, Dick Wells, chairman of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, suggested that the industry's efforts in reducing the country's salt use have already been extremely significant. "Many companies have been working with the National Heart Foundation to steadily reduce salt levels as part of the Tick program, which has been in place for almost 20 years,"​ he stated. "We have examples of products that today have far less salt than they did twenty or thirty years ago." ​ Wells therefore disagrees with AWASH's calls for a set reduction in intake by 2012. He suggested that the industry should continue to reduce salt in line with consumer taste and requirement. "Salt has always been part of our diet for many reasons including taste and as a preservative,"​ Wells stated. "As usual, it is all a matter of balance."

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