Australia’s manufacturers still not fully on board with salt reduction

By Andrew Schreiber

- Last updated on GMT

Australia’s manufacturers still not fully on board with salt reduction

Related tags: Nutrition

A review of the Food and Health Dialogue, the Australian Government’s flagship initiative to improve the healthiness of the country’s food supply, has showed mixed results in efforts to reduce salt content.

According to an evaluation carried out by The George Institute for Global Health, salt levels in breads and breakfast cereals were down, however progress towards the target agreed for processed meats was poor.

The Australian Food and Health Dialogue was set up in 2009, with food manufacturers committing to cut sodium levels in bread, breakfast cereals and processed meats by December 2013.

The George Institute for Global Health, which has been tracking salt levels in more than 15,000 products on the supermarket shelves, found that not all of the targets are being met.

“A number of bakers have made great progress towards meeting the salt targets they agreed with government,”​ said Sydney University’s Professor Bruce Neal, who is also study leader at the institute.

“Coles and Woolworths, for example, got all their breads down to the target. Goodman Fielder isn’t quite there yet but it made really significant improvements, from 30% rising to 65% now at target.”

According to the institute, which also recently launched a new healthy food stars website to help shoppers work out how much fat, salt and sugar is in over 55,000 food products in supermarkets, the overall proportion of breads at the 400mg/100g target rose from 42% to 67%.

Likewise, average salt levels in breakfast cereals fell from 316mg/100g to 237mg/100g.

“Kellogg’s have made significant improvements but there are still some pretty salty products out there because this was a soft target,” ​said Neal. “The breakfast cereal industry was pretty clever about what it agreed to, and the government should have taken a firmer stand. But it’s certainly progress.”

According to Neal, the story was different for processed meats, where the proportion of products meeting the target rose from 28% to 47%, but many products remain very salty.

“Modest progress was made by most companies in this challenging category but it was disappointing to find the largest processed meat manufacturer, Primo Smallgoods, had appeared to have gone back on their commitment,”​ said Helen Trevena a co-author of the study.

“It’s unclear why, but as far as we can tell the proportion of products meeting the target was less in 2013 than it was in 2010.”

Australia also recently agreed to World Health Organisation recommendations to cut salt levels by 30%, and concurred that removing salt from processed and restaurant foods will be essential for this target to be met.

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