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Food label claims be taken with a pinch of salt?

Should food label claims be taken with a pinch of salt?

A Food Standards Australia New Zealand survey of the salt content of food raises serious questions about the integrity of nutrition labelling, Green Party MP Sue Kedgley says.

The newly released study, conducted by ESR for FSANZ, to assess the sodium level of New Zealand foods, found that 12 of 168 samples they tested had sodium levels that were 50 percent more than what was claimed on the label.

"This is extremely concerning. Consumers rely on nutrition labels to tell them what's in their food, and they assume they are accurate," Ms Kedgley says.

"This sample suggests that a significant percentage of food labels may be inaccurate, and are therefore misleading consumers.

"The law requires all food to be true to label and the labels of all 12 products clearly breach the Fair Trading Act, as well as the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

Ms Kedgley says she hopes the New Zealand Food Safety Authority will investigate and take action against the companies if it was found that they had made false claims.

"We need to send a clear message to the food industry that nutrition labels must be accurate and true-to-label," Ms Kedgley says.

The results of the survey also suggested that random testing of foods to ensure their nutrition labels were accurate, was urgently needed.

"Consumers cannot rely on nutrition labels to tell them what is in food unless they are confident they are accurate. This survey calls into question the reliability of all food labels, and random testing is urgently needed to restore confidence in the system."

Many people are advised to reduce their salt intake by health professionals, because salt is linked to high blood pressure, and an increased risk of strokes and heart disease. Given the adverse health effects of high salt intakes, it is particularly concerning that consumers may have been misled by inaccurate labels, she says.

"It is essential that consumers can make healthy choices based on accurate information, and New Zealand Food Safety Authority must act to ensure consumers can."

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