Australian food firms commit to slashing salt

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt reduction, Sodium

Food companies in Australia have committed to significant reductions in salt levels in their products, mirroring similar efforts across the globe as public awareness and industry pressures rise.

A stakeholder update from the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) last week confirmed that just under 30 food firms in the nation have made plans to slash salt in their products by up to 30 per cent.

The move comes after a request AWASH sent last year to major food companies in Australia, asking about their previous salt reduction efforts and any planned future actions.

“Since the launch of the Drop the Salt! campaign in May 2007, AWASH has been engaging closely with the food industry to reduce salt in foods,” ​said the group. “We have so far received commitments to salt reduction from 18 companies and detailed action plans from nine.”

AWASH said that Coles​and The Smith’s Snackfood Company​both committed to reducing the salt content of their products by 25 per cent over five years, in line with its strategy, while other firms have made salt reduction targets of between 5 and 30 per cent.

EU efforts on salt

Similar efforts have been under way in Europe for several years, with some countries starting to raise public awareness as early as 2004 (Ireland, Lithuania, UK) and 2005 (Belgium).

Other countries, including Austria, Estonia, Spain, France, Latvia, Norway, and Switzerland, initiated campaigns in 2009.

Some of the slowest countries to move on salt reduction include Greece, Sweden and Slovakia, which have just started to make progress on data collection and monitoring, as well as Germany, which only started studying sodium excretion in the population so as to measure total salt intake last year.

Data collection

In its latest stakeholder update, AWASH said Australia has seen some progress in data collection on salt. The group has so far received sodium content information from 22 companies.

In response to interest from food companies to receive recognition for their salt reduction efforts, AWASH said it will shortly be releasing individual company reports, which will include the information it has for each company in its nutrient database.

“AWASH initially established the database to monitor the sodium content of Australian processed foods however we have now expanded this to include all nutrient and labelling information,”​ it said.

The group’s 2009 database contains information for around 7,500 processed foods, with most data taken directly from product Nutrition Information Panels (NIP) in-store, and directly from manufacturers.

AWASH is now preparing to update its database for 2010, and said it will be calling on all companies to send updated NIP data for their products.

Related topics: Market Trends, Reformulation

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