Salt reduction is on the agenda around the world since high intake has been linked to greater risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to cardiovascular events such as stroke. Australian adults eat an average of 9g of salt a day. While 1g a day is said to be necessary for health, AWASH is aiming to reduce consumption to 6g per day.
However most of the salt consumed is not added at table, but is contained in processed and prepared foods, where it performs technical and taste functions. This means it can be hard to keep a close eye on precise intake.
The Australian division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) distributed a draft report for consultation on Drop the Salt! Food Industry Strategy in July; its objective is to see a 25 per cent reduction of salt used in foods over five years.
AWASH says it has received “a positive and constructive response”; it has met with eight companies and received four detailed written responses.
In addition, input from the National Heart Foundation (NHF) is expected to prove useful in shaping the future strategy.
The organisation now expects to prepare a template for salt reduction plans by January 2009, and information on monitoring levels in processed foods will be published in the databank from early next year.
It will continue to meet with key companies throughout 2009, and plans to have developed and agreed targets by October.
AWASH said it has seen a high level of commitment from the industry, including the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), which agreed to write to its members saying it supports the strategy in general and asking for information on their plans.
However it expressed concern that not all of its members would be able to reduce salt by as much as 25 per cent. The idea of product category specific targets was seen as a good guide, but while the UK’s FSA is seen as a good starting point, some categories may need “splitting further” to account for variability.
Other issues raised were that food safety should not be compromised, and that all sectors of the food supply chain should be involved, including ingredients firms.