Substantial scope to reduce sodium in NZ processed foods: Study

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Significant room to reduce sodium levels in New Zealand's breads and meats, says study
Significant room to reduce sodium levels in New Zealand's breads and meats, says study

Related tags New zealand Bread

New Zealand’s processed foods sector is contributing significantly to excessive salt intake in the country but there is substantial scope to reduce the sodium levels in these foods, a new study suggests.

The research – published in the Journal of Public Health, Australia and New Zealand​ – identified opportunities for sodium reduction in white breads, sausages and hot dogs and salami and cured meats.

Lead author, Eleanor Woodward and a team of researchers from the Clinical Trials Research Unit at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, suggested that reformulations in these key product categories “could play an important role in reducing the burden of nutrition-related disease in New Zealand.”

“As sodium plays a range of roles in processed foods, including preservation, flavour and processing, sodium reduction in some food categories may be easier than others…Nonetheless, large variability was observed in the sodium content of the products assessed in this research suggesting that sodium reformulation is likely feasible across many categories of processed foods,”​ researchers noted.

The researchers suggested that to ensure effective reformulation, further data must be collected and a national sodium reduction strategy put in place.

Such monitoring of the food supply within New Zealand will prove imperative in discovering how changes to foods translate into health improvements, they wrote.

Lower salt, better health

“Despite population sodium intakes being higher than recommended dietary guidelines, New Zealand does not have a national sodium reduction strategy,”​ the researchers said.

“If reductions were achieved, it would likely lead to substantial positive public health gains in New Zealand,”​ they added.

In 2007 the New Zealand Heart Foundation set up a voluntary initiativeProject Target 450with bread manufacturers to reduce sodium levels; a project acknowledged by the authors as significantly reducing sodium levels in the country’s breads.

The mean sodium content of New Zealand bread dropped by 34mg/100g in the wake of the project, the study noted, and the project has now been extended to other food categories.

Study details

Sodium data was collected from 946 product samples taken from one large supermarket. In total 215 bread samples were taken, 233 processed meats and 44 sauces.

Data was then compared to the mean sodium targets outlined by the UK’s Food Standards Agency and also cross-checked against mean sodium values of processed foods across Australia and the UK.

The report found that mean sodium levels in bread and sauces were significantly higher than similar UK products but lower than Australia. For processed meats however, salt levels were higher than both Australia and the UK.

The 2012 UK FSA sodium level target is 400mg/100g and New Zealand’s white breads were found to be 33mg/100g above this target. Wholemeal breads were 14mg/100g over, multigrain bread 15mg/100g and flat breads 104mg/100g over.

The authors said that while flat bread sodium levels were in significant excess to recommended levels, due to white bread being most commonly consumed in New Zealand; this was the target area identified for sodium reduction.

In the processed meats sector, sausages and hotdogs recorded a 502mg/100g sodium level above target, sliced meats 702mg/100g higher and salami and cured meats 678mg/100g more than recommended FSA levels.

Data also showed that the majority of sauces on New Zealand’s shelves failed to meet the UK FSA’s recommended salt levels, with most surpassing the amount significantly. However, “this food group was not considered a primary priority area for sodium reformulation due to the lower contribution to population sodium intakes and the mixed results of this food group; with some sauce sub-categories meeting FSA target levels.”



Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health

doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2012.00829.x

'Key opportunities for sodium reduction in New Zealand processed foods'

Authors: Woodward, E, Eyles, H and Ni Mhurchu, C.

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