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World Salt Awareness Week

Processed Foods Highlighted During World Salt Awareness Week

The Heart Foundation is warning New Zealanders to be more vigilant about the amount of salt they are getting from processed foods, as World Salt Awareness Week gets underway on Monday.

Heart Foundation Head of Nutrition, Dave Monro, said processed foods currently contribute around 75 per cent of New Zealanders’ salt (sodium) intake.

“Bread is the largest contributor, followed by processed meats such as sausages, bacon and ham,” Dave said.

“Sauces, cheese and breakfast cereals can also be high in salt. This last point often comes as a complete surprise to people, given that cereals and also breads don’t have a noticeable salt taste.”

Dave said New Zealand’s salt intake is currently around 9g – just over a teaspoon – a day which is above the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 5g a day.

“High salt intake has proven links with high blood pressure which increases the risk of people developing heart disease – New Zealand’s biggest killer.”

In light of processed foods’ contribution to salt intake, food companies can play an important role in helping to reduce levels, Dave said.

“Many food companies have embraced sodium reduction as an important initiative and have worked to reduced levels, accordingly, without compromising taste.”

Good examples of this include an approximate 20 per cent drop in sodium levels of leading breads, a third less sodium in popular children’s breakfast cereals, and positive sodium reductions in processed meats like sausages. These changes have occurred slowly over the past 10 years, and equate to over 200 tonnes of salt (per annum) being removed from targeted food products.

“While many food companies have been making some good changes in this regard, more work is needed across the food supply chain, including fast food outlets, cafés and restaurants,” Dave said.

“However, this is only one part of the bigger jigsaw puzzle. If people really want to make significant reductions they need to opt for more whole foods and less processed products. This is particularly important for children who can develop a preference for salt over time.”

World Salt Awareness Week runs from February 29 to Sunday March 6.

Tips for reducing salt intake
Include more whole and fewer processed foods

Read food labels, use the per 100g column and choose products with the lowest sodium levels

Use vinegars, citrus, chilli, to add flavour and punch to dishes rather than extra salt

Take extra care with children’s foods, as a preference for salt is a learned behaviour

The Heart Foundation’s Tick or Two Ticks logo can help you make healthier food choices when buying packaged food


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