Salt (sodium chloride) has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and stroke. Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council recommends a maximum daily intake of 6g of salt (2.3g of sodium) for adults – although the Australian arm of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) puts the limit at 4g salt.
The food standards body says recent (unreferenced) media reports have suggested that Australians regularly consume as much as 40g of salt per day – but its new communication disputes this, saying the highest consumption it has calculated for an individual is 26g.
While the FSANZ admitted that some 34 per cent of people are consuming too much sodium, but it said that 95 per cent of Australians are consuming less than 8.5g of salt per day.
Average sodium consumption in Australia is said to be 2.2g per day from salt, of which 80 per cent comes from processed foods and 20 per cent from salt added at the table or during cooking. These figures are said to come from “the most recent analytical data”.
The food safety body said that the food industry has been making efforts to reduce salt used products, and a survey showed lower levels in margarine, savoury biscuits, soup and mayonnaise in 2008, compared to previous years.
A documentary called Food Investigators which aired this week claimed that three slices of take-away pizza could contain 4g of salt.
Professor Bruce Neal, chair of AWASH, praised the UK approach to salt reduction in an online opinion to mark World Hypertension Day last Sunday. The Food Standards Agency introduced voluntary targets on salt reduction in 2006, with an initial deadline of 2010. Collaboration with industry has led to a 10 per cent reduction in salt intake so far, and new 2012 targets were set last week.
“Getting industry to take salt out of foods could produce the same health benefits as the clinical hypertension program within just a few years of implementation,” he wrote.
But he added: “The real question is whether government will take on industry.”
Kate Carnell, chief executive of the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), said food firms have been working with AWASH and the National Heart Foundation over salt reduction in processed foods.
“This is an ongoing process as companies must ensure that their products remain appealing to consumers in terms of taste and convenience,” she said.
Melanie Leech, director general of the UK’s Food and Drink Federation, recently shared experiences of working with government on dietary disease prevention at an AFGC event.