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WASH study on salt highlights opportunity


WASH study on salt highlights opportunity for food companies

A new World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) study has highlighted significant differences in the salt levels of global food brands.

The study involved over 260 food products available around the world from key food manufacturers and fast food companies. In some cases, food products contained twice the salt content compared to equivalent products in other countries - highlighting the opportunity to reformulate.

Eating too much salt has strong links with high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) - which is New Zealand’s biggest killer. New Zealanders salt intake is in excess of twice the recommended level - with around 80% of our intake coming from processed foods.

“Research shows small drops in salt in a step-wise fashion can have a significant impact over time, with consumers not noticing a change,” says Heart Foundation Medical Director, Professor Norman Sharpe.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends population wide salt reduction initiatives as one of the most cost effective ways to tackle reduction in dietary salt intake and highlights interaction with food manufacturers as a key success factor,” he says.

Some New Zealand food companies are already engaged in salt reduction – either through their own initiatives or in collaboration with the Heart Foundation.

The Heart Foundation’s Project Target 450 for reducing sodium levels in bread is an example of a successful collaboration with leading bread manufacturers. The project won the Supreme Award at the 2008 NZ Health Innovation Awards (HIA).

As a result of the project, up to 150 tonnes of salt will be removed annually from the New Zealand bread supply.

Breakfast cereals and processed meats are next on the menu for the Heart Foundation as it continues its collaborative food industry work to reduce salt content in New Zealand foods.

“Our goal is to target the leading sources of salt in our diet and support further salt reduction within these categories - whether as part of our work with a company or as part of company own reformulation strategies,” says Professor Sharpe.

“The Heart Foundation is encouraging food manufacturers not already engaged in salt reduction programmes to put it on their agenda, and play more of an active role in helping to address the increase in lifestyle related health conditions, such as heart disease,” he says.

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