VicHealth chief executive Jerril Rechter said Victorians were eating too much salt and putting themselves at risk of high blood pressure, which accounts for about half of all the state’s strokes, heart disease and chronic kidney disease deaths each year.
"We're eating more than 15,000 tonnes of salt a year in Victoria—almost twice the upper limit that is recommended. In particular, children, who generally need less salt than adults, are eating far too much salt, and this can lead to a lifetime of health risks,” said Rechter.
"Almost one in 20 deaths in Victoria is attributable to high salt intake—that’s six times the annual road toll.”
Subscribed to WHO’s 30% reduction
The report looks at five ways to reduce Victoria's salt intake if the state is ever going to reach targets set by the World Health Organisation.
Victoria has committed to a 30% reduction in salt intake by 2025 as part of the WHO’s global targets to prevent and control non-communicable diseases.
By reducing the amount of salt Victorians consume by 30% we could save 800 lives each year and $50m in healthcare costs, according to The George Institute for Global Health.
VicHealth will now place salt high on its public health and awareness agendas, said Rechter.
“We’ll be working with governments, the food industry, health groups, non-government organisations and the public to increase awareness and strengthen healthy policies,” she said.
Tough buy-in for consumers
However, getting people to buy in to the idea that consumers are eating almost twice the recommended amount of salt is critical to meeting the 30% target.
"Most salt in the Australian diet comes from added salt in processed foods like bread, breakfast cereal, processed meats and ready-made sauces,” said Rechter, who has joined with a number of other organisations with interests in reducing salt consumption, including governments, manufacturers and health groups, to launch a plan of action on salt.
“Shoppers are often unaware how much salt they’re eating, which is why this partnership will work to ensure that policies and initiatives that support a healthier food supply are established, resourced and monitored. We will also work with the food industry to find solutions to lowering salt in foods and meals.”
VicHealth believes that similar programmes have worked in other countries, with salt-reduction strategies up to 200 times more cost-effective than paying for treatment with hypertension medication, the state government department has an interest in getting people to subscribe.