13 January 2020

Taking self regulation with a pinch of salt

Nutrition Public Health Research

In disappointing, but hardly surprising findings, it seems food manufacturers have failed to honour voluntary commitments to reduce salt levels in their products, an Australian study reports.

Researchers from the George Institute for Global Health analysed the salt content of more than 4,500 products from 16 Australian food manufacturers to see if there were any positive changes between 2013 and 2017.

Of those companies, 10 were members of The International Food and Beverage Alliance which has committed to improve the healthiness of products though reformulation, including salt reduction.

The study, published recently in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, found no clear evidence of reductions in salt levels overall, or by alliance member companies, between 2013 and 2017.

“Although many manufacturers have made commitments to improve the salt levels of their products, rather few seem to have acted on these commitments,” George Institute executive director Professor Bruce Neal said in a media statement.

“We did find a wide variation in the salt content of many quite similar foods and drinks in the study, which means its technically quite possible to manufacturer a lower-salt version,” he said.

“There are clearly other reasons why manufacturers aren’t reducing salt levels. It suggests to me that when it comes to salt, voluntary pledges are not enough. We need government to step in and drive this, with regulation probably.”

Professor Neal said while there had been some improvements in categories such as processed meats and savoury snacks, there were many more supermarket foods that had not made any reductions.

The Australian study dovetails with research from the UK by the Queen Mary University of London which found some bacon products sold in supermarkets there had salt levels as high as 1.42g per rasher, or the equivalent of four bags of crisps.

The study found that measured against with a comparable survey in 2012, the majority of UK supermarkets had either increased the quantities of salt in their pork products or kept the levels the same.

Journal of Food Composition and Analysis; DOI: 10.1016/j.jfca.2019.103405


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