The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) in collaboration with Parliamentary Secretary for Health Mark Butler, the National Heart Foundation and companies under an initiative called the Food and Health Dialogue, have agreed that breakfast cereals exceeding 400 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams should have this content reduced by 15 per cent over four years.
This covers breakfast cereals from producers such as Sanitarium, Cereal Partners Worldwide, Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and Kellogg’s.
Bread manufacturers in the salt reduction initiative include George Weston Foods, Goodman Fielder Baking, Allied Mills and Cripps Nubake, which have also agreed to reduce sodium across bread products to 400mg per 100g by the end of 2013.
The companies involved in the Food and Health dialogue group represent over 80 per cent of the market for bread products and around 60 per cent for ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.
Salt is of course a vital nutrient and is necessary for the body to function, but campaigners for salt reduction, like the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) consider the average daily salt consumption in the western world, between 10 and 12g, far too high.
Numerous scientists are convinced that high salt intake is responsible for increasing blood pressure (hypertension), a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) - a condition that causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe.
The pressure has been mounting on food manufacturers to reduce the salt content of their foods and the UK's Food Standards Agency's (FSA) recommendation of six grams of salt per day for the general population is understood to be more a realistic target for the next five years than the ideal healthy limit.
And a study from Australian researchers published earlier this year looks set to maintain the pressure on food formulators to reduce the salt content of their products.
Reducing the intake of salt from the diet may improve the health of blood vessels, with the effects going beyond blood pressure benefits, found the scientists.
They found that short-term adherence to a low salt diet was associated with a 1.5 per cent increase in flow-mediated dilation (FMD), the measure of a blood vessel's healthy ability to relax.
Their findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, with their results also demonstrating that blood pressure improved as a result of the low-salt diet.