Calls for Mandatory Maximum Salt Limits in Australian Food to Tackle Health Crisis

by Ella

Australia is facing a salt intake crisis with its citizens consuming almost double the recommended daily salt levels, costing the healthcare system an estimated $10 billion annually, according to a report by the Grattan Institute. Experts argue that while individual food choices play a role, external factors significantly contribute to the excessive salt consumption.

The “Sneaky Salt” report reveals that three-quarters of the nation’s salt intake originates from food manufacturing, prompting calls for government intervention to address the issue. While voluntary limits on salt in products like bread and sausages were introduced in 2009, the report criticizes their poor design and implementation, advocating for the enforcement of mandatory maximum salt limits.


The Grattan Institute also recommends broadening the range of food types subject to salt limits and calls for measuring salt content in items from bakeries and fast-food establishments. The report even explores the idea of enriching salt with potassium to enhance the perception of saltiness.


Excessive salt consumption is linked to high blood pressure and serious health conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and some cancers. An estimated 2,500 Australians die each year due to illnesses associated with salt intake. The report suggests that Australia could collectively gain an additional 36,000 years of life over the next two decades by reducing salt consumption. It also contends that such measures could prevent 6,000 hospital visits and 300 deaths annually.


Peter Breadon, the health program director at the Grattan Institute, emphasizes the connection between diet and health, stating, “What we eat is making us sicker. If we don’t improve our diets, we won’t improve our health. Our report shows how we can improve our diets and our health quickly and cheaply – and we won’t even notice any change in the taste of our food.”


Numerous studies have highlighted the need for more comprehensive efforts targeting the retail and food industries to reduce the population’s salt intake. A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition in July recommended improved nutrition labeling and mandatory food reformulation as necessary steps to address the salt consumption issue.

Additionally, the impact on children is of growing concern. On average, nearly 40% of an Australian child’s daily energy intake comes from “discretionary foods,” which are highly processed items with minimal nutritional value but high levels of salt, sugar, or trans fats. The need for regulatory action to safeguard public health and well-being is becoming increasingly apparent in Australia.



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