Stroke FoundationTuesday 27 March 2012, 10:24AM
The Stroke Foundation applauds the NZ food industry's
recognition of the importance of reducing salt intake and agrees
that more needs to be done to reduce levels of salt in processed
foods. Stroke Foundation CEO Mark Vivian welcomed the statement by
Food and Grocery Council CEO Katherine Rich at the start of Salt
Awareness Week, that we need a concerted effort to bring the
nation's salt intake down.
The theme of Salt Awareness Week 2012 is 'Salt and Stroke' An
excess of salt in the diet leads to raised blood pressure which is
the biggest single cause of stroke.
"Recent progress in reducing salt levels in bread, for example,
demonstrates that it is possible for food manufacturers to make
lower sodium products that are perfectly acceptable to consumers,"
said Stroke Foundation CEO Mark Vivian. (Bread consumption accounts
for up to a quarter of daily sodium intake .) "The fact that
more people eat brown bread than white , when a few years ago
the opposite was the case, also shows how the public can be
responsive to health messages about their diet. The argument that
cutting salt will alienate the customer doesn't stand up. We agree
with the industry that gradual reduction is the way, but it could
happen faster in many cases."
According to recent research the average sodium content of bread in
New Zealand fell from 469mg/100g in 2007 to 435mg/100g in 2010,
thanks to reformulation carried out by the bread industry, with
support from the NZ Heart Foundation . Although salt content is
highest on average in white breads, this category has witnessed a
bigger fall in salt levels than other breads (from 519 to
463mg/100g on average). White bread accounts for about 35% of total
bread consumption in New Zealand .
"In the UK salt content has fallen across a range of food products
and that is the model we should be pursuing in New Zealand,"
continued Mark Vivian. "As we are seeing with bread, industry-wide
cooperation can gradually bring down our 'invisible' salt
consumption and help to wean us off our high salt diet. There is
some good work in progress on other supermarket products and we
also need to remember the role of restaurants and fast food chains.
A coordinated approach between government, industry and the health
promotion sector has paid dividends in the UK. We need to see that
in New Zealand too."
Salt in NZ breads is on a par with Australia, and although it has
reduced significantly in recent years, the average is still above
the voluntary UK target for 2012 of 400mg/100g. In other food
groups surveyed recently New Zealand scores slightly better on
sauces, with lower average salt content than both Australia and the
UK, but NZ cured and sliced meats such as salami and ham, and
sausages contain much more salt than their trans-Tasman or British
counterparts . Sauces account for about 6% and processed meats
10% of daily sodium intake1.
Mark Vivian concluded: "During Salt Awareness Week people can do
themselves a big favour simply by reading the content labels of the
foods they buy, choosing the lower salt options more often, and
steering clear of products high in salt. Choosing more fresh foods
and fewer packaged foods is a great way to reduce salt in the diet.
Cutting down on salt will do everyone the world of good."
Salt is sodium chloride and in food is usually labelled sodium. Low
salt foods are those which contain less than 120mg of sodium per
100g. Medium salt foods contain between 120 and 600mg/100g. High
salt foods contain more than 600mg/100g.
The New Zealand population average daily intake of sodium is
estimated to be about 3,500mg of sodium, or 9g of salt a day. The
Nutrient Reference Value for Australia and NZ recommends 2,300mg of
sodium, or 6g of salt a day. That's about one teaspoonful of salt
from all food sources.
As much as 75% of daily sodium intake comes from the processed and
takeaway food that we eat.
Too much salt in the diet is a leading cause of high blood
pressure. High blood pressure is the single biggest risk factor for
stroke, being implicated in over 60% of cases.
1 - Ministry of Health and the University of Auckland. 2003.
Nutrition and the Burden of Disease. New Zealand 1997-2011.
Thomson, Survey of salt in processed foods, NZ Food Safety
Vannort and Thomson, 2003-04 New Zealand Total Diet Survey, NZ Food
Safety Authority, 2005
2 - University of Otago and Ministry of Health. 2011. A Focus on
Nutrition: Key findings of the 2008/09 New Zealand Adult Nutrition
Survey Wellington: Ministry of Health. Chapter 6, Dietary
3 - Dunford et al, Changes in the sodium content of bread in
Australia and New Zealand between 2007 and 2010: implications for
policy, MJA 2011; 195: 346-349
4 - Woodward, Eyles and Ni Mhurchu, Key Opportunities for sodium
reduction in New Zealand processed foods, Aust NZ J Public Health,
For further information visit www.stroke.org.nz