4 December 2009
Australian experts say there is now compelling evidence for a Government-led push to change food industry standards for maximum salt targets in foods.
The call follows the release of a new analysis which they say definitely identifies the cardiovascular risks associated with high salt intake (BMJ 2009; 339: b4567).
A European meta-analysis of 13 studies, including 177,025 people, found that a high salt intake was associated with a significantly increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. (A meta-analysis is a statistical technique that summarises the results of other studies.)
Professor Bruce Neal, chair of the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH), said the findings provided compelling evidence for the danger of excess salt intake.
With around 80 per cent of dietary salt being derived from processed foods, the Australian Government needed to set maximum salt targets across different food categories, he said.
“We need some Government leadership that actually says to industry this is not acceptable behaviour,” Professor Neal said.
Professor Mike Daube, president of the Public Health Association of Australia, said if food companies did not meet voluntary salt reduction targets on foods, then mandatory regulation would be required.
“You can spend a squillion and take 40 years educating the public not to put too much salt on at the table…[but] you can actually do much more by way of changing industry practice,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Federal Health Department said a voluntary food reformulation programme had been established to target the reduction of risk-associated nutrients, including salt. An independent review of food-labelling law and policy is also currently underway, the spokesperson added.
The issue was highlighted this week by claims that the new Hungry Jack’s Double Angry Angus Burger contained 5.6 grams of salt – about one and a half times the recommended daily adult intake, according to AWASH.
“In the context of our national obesity crisis, this type of product is reckless,” Professor Neal said.
Last Reviewed: 04 December 2009