Australia

Salt Action Summary

March 2012

The Australian Division of WASH (AWASH) continues to be very active in its national salt reduction strategy; the Australian Government’s Food and Health Dialogue has recently launched a new website

The Dialogue is a joint government-industry-public health initiative aimed at addressing poor dietary habits and making healthier food choices easier and more accessible for all Australians. The website explains how the Food Category Action Plans are developed following agreement on reformulation and, where appropriate, portion sizing and consumer messaging targets for each food category. To date, Category Action Plans have been endorsed for the bread, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, simmer sauce and processed meat categories. The next categories will include soups, processed poultry, cheese and savoury pies.

AWASH is coordinating an international collaborative effort to collect information on the composition of processed foods in different countries around the world.  The aim is to compare the nutrient content of major processed food categories against benchmarks, between countries and companies, and over time.  22 countries are currently involved in the project, and the global branded food database protocol will soon be published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation.  Data collection is now underway in India, China, Fiji, New Zealand and the UK.   

WASH is pleased to be working in collaboration with the Medical Research Council to collect the first round of nutritional information in the UK.

February 2012

AWASH launch 'FoodSWitch' app. FoodSwitch has been developed by The George Institute for Global Health and Bupa as part of the Healthy Foods Initiative to help Australians understand more about the nutritional value of the food we eat. FoodSwitch is an app that can be downloaded for free. It enables making the best food choices for you and your family easy. Find out how much salt, fat and sugar is in your foods and make simple switches for better health now and in the future.

Please click here to download FoodSwitch app

Please click here to view AWASH's latest 'Drop the Salt' campaign news bulletin

September 2011

Action on salt has gained new momentum in the Pacific Islands following a presentation on cost effectiveness of salt reduction strategies to Ministers at the Pacific Island Food Summit in Vanuatu in April last year. The South Pacific Office of the World Health Organisation has since funded workshops in Fiji in June, Tonga in August and Guam in September to discuss the benefits of salt reduction.
Following on from this The George Institute has been working collaboratively with the World Health Organisation to facilitate the development of salt reduction activities as part of non-communicable disease strategies in Fiji, Nauru and the Solomon Islands. A range of activities, including restricting purchases of salt in schools and hospitals, setting up food composition databases, and using markets to educate people about low salt cooking are now being implemented as well as establishing standards for salt levels in foods. More work to establish programs in other Pacific countries and to develop a salt strategy tool kit has commenced.

Please click here to view AWASH's latest 'Drop the Salt' campaign new bulletin

December 2009

AWASH have undertaken a systematic survey of the sodium contents of processed foods in Australia; comparing sodium values against maximum target levels established by the UK Food Standards Agency (UK FSA).

Many products, particularly breads, processed meats, and sauces, have salt amounts above reasonable benchmarks. The variation in salt concentrations between comparable products suggests that reformulation is highly feasible for many foods.

AJCN. First published ahead of print December 2, 2009 as doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28688.

August 2009

'Death by Pizza' media release

    • In May this year, AWASH released a report showing alarming levels of salt in take-away and supermarket-bought pizzas. The report found that 94% of pizzas sold in Australia are overloaded with salt. The release generated a large amount of media attention, with over 150 news stories, television coverage from Channels 7, 9 and 10, and extensive radio coverage.
  • Two AWASH journal articles published
    • Just add a pinch of salt! – current directions for the use of salt in recipes in Australian magazines (European Journal of Public Health)
    • The development of a national salt reduction strategy for Australia (Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
  • Hosted two salt-related events:
    • The Australian Academy of Science, sponsored by the Nutrition Society of Australia Sydney Group, hosted a symposium called Salt in the diet: the elephant in the room: why health professionals need a shake up on the 13th August in Sydney. This symposium aimed to raise consumer and health professional’s awareness of the health consequences of our excessive salt intake and disseminate strategies that can be implemented at a federal, state and community level to reduce dietary salt intake. Topics on the day included:
      • History of salt and effects on cardiovascular risk
      • Salt reduction and Type 2 Diabetes
      • Salt in the Australian diet and potential for salt reduction
      • The taste for salt and potential for salt reduction in foods
      • Getting food labelling right for salt
      • Meeting the salt targets in cardiac rehabilitation
      • Salt guidelines for hospital menus –strategies and challenges
      • Food industry – our assault on salt
      • Regulatory approaches to salt reduction – hard and soft
      • Heart Foundation's Salt Cutting Strategies
    • ILSI SEAR Australasia and the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology held a symposium entitled The Science of Salt: Industry innovation and best practice in reducing salt in foods on the 2nd July in Sydney. Over 100 delegates attended the symposium, which set out to explore the challenges and opportunities faced by the food industry in reducing salt in processed foods. Topics discussed on the day included:
      • Setting the Scene – Salt and Health
      • Progress in salt reduction across the Australian Food Industry
      • Technical Approaches to Salt Reduction - Opportunities and Challenges
      • Salt reduction in practice
      • Salt – the sensory perspective
      • Salt replacers and enhancers – benefits, applications and challenges
  • Food industry commitment to salt reduction
    • AWASH now has commitments to salt reduction from 20 companies and has received Company Action Plans from Oporto, Smith’s Snackfood Company, McDonald’s, Coles, Unilever Australasia, Bakers Delight and Yum! Restaurants.

March 2008

Australia World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) has been very active in national salt reduction, making progress at an industry level. AWASH distributed their strategic paper Drop the Salt! Food industry Strategy: draft for consultation in July 2008. Results of the consultation demonstrated a need for high-level commitment, which the Australian Food and Grocery Council have already agreed to. Action plans for each of the manufacturers are required, as are product category specific targets, in order to create a level playing field.

September 2008

AWASH launched a food industry & manufacturing strategy document for consultation. Proposals are included for salt reduction targets for different food categories.

In addition, Coles, a large Australian supermarket chain, announced they were reducing added salt by 25 percent over five years, setting the standard for other food manufacturers.

An Australian National Diet and Physical Activity survey is due to begin in 2009, for which inclusion of a 24-hour urinary sodium measurement is under consideration.

July 2008

AWASH found that one sausage can contain up to 6g salt.

www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2008/07/11/sausages-under-fire-as-salt-levels-to-lead-to-industry-action.html

June 2008

Following Salt Awareness Week, the following progress has been made:

Food industry strategy

Members of the AWASH advisory group and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) have been consulted on a draft strategy to work with the food and catering industries to reduce salt in foods by an average of 25% over five years. The document will be launched for further consultation in July and meetings will be held with key industry organisations to discuss implementation of the strategy during July and August 2008. Several companies (notably Coles and Smiths Snackfood Company) have committed to reducing salt in their products by 25% over the next five years in line with the AWASH strategy.

Sodium database for Australian foods

To monitor implementation of the food industry strategy, AWASH has established a sodium database. This will enable tracking of the changes in the salt content of the food supply over time, in general as well as in relation to specific food categories. Analysis of changes between 2007 and 2008 will be available early in 2009, with a view to comparing the data annually until 2012 thereafter.

Food labelling

The latest consumer poll from the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) released in May confirmed that, whilst Australians may be aware that too much salt in their diets leads to health problems, most do not understand how to work out the salt content from the nutrition labels. The results of the consumer poll were announced by AWASH Senior Project Manager, Jacqui Webster, at a workshop at the Dieticians’ Association of Australia National Conference on the Gold Coast in May. Over 80 conference delegates attended the workshop and backed the AWASH call for Federal government leadership to introduce clearer labelling highlighting the salt content of foods.

May 2008

Research commissioned by The George Institute for International Health in Sydney, surveying over 1,000 people showed that more than three quarters were worried about the amount of salt in their diet, but most have no idea how to work out the sodium content in the foods they eat due to confusion over food labels. This news story achieved excellent newspaper coverage for AWASH (Australia World Action on Salt and Health).

February 2008

World Salt Awareness Week

Australia World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) involved scientific experts, political representatives and the food industry in World Salt Awareness Week. Activities included holding a conference, at which Dame Deidre Hutton, Chairperson of the UK’s Food Standard’s Agency was a speaker, lobbying for reduced salt in foods and improved food labelling. The press release achieved publicity with radio, press and TV interviews.

Media Release: AWASH calls for Salt Reduction to be Election Health Promise

19 September 2007

The Australian Government has been called on to educate consumers about the danger of high salt diets. The Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) welcomed the Motion introduced in the House of Representatives by MP Margaret May, calling on government to educate consumers about the danger of high salt diets, in recognition of the serious adverse effects of salt on health.

Chair of AWASH, Dr Bruce Neal, said that salt reduction should be part of all parties' health agendas in the lead up to the election, highlighting that government action would save significant money on health budgets. Dr Neal showed that the health benefits from a national salt reduction program would be achieved at less than one tenth of the cost of many treatments already widely used in Australia, “excess salt consumption is a major risk factor for health. A reduction to the recommended 6 grams a day would prevent about one fifth of all strokes and heart attacks in Australia each year”.

The Motion also calls on government to follow the United Kingdom’s example by introducing a colour coded front-of-pack labelling system, allowing consumers to identify the best foods with the lowest salt content. However, “the majority of the salt in the diet is hidden in processed foods”, said Dr Bruce Neal. “The government should take a leadership role in getting the food industry to reduce the amount of salt added to processed foods. The UK experience confirms that this is the best approach.”

AWASH is also planning a series of initiatives for Salt Awareness Week which will take place from 28 January – 2 February 2008.

For full media release: www.awash.org.au/media_release_2007_09_19.html

Drop the Salt! Campaign

15 May 2007 saw the launch of the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health’s (AWASH) campaign, “Drop the Salt!”, the first cohesive national salt reduction effort in Australia. The five-year “Drop the Salt!” campaign aims to reduce salt intake in the Australian population to six grams a day by 2012.

The results of a consumer survey were released at the launch of the new AWASH campaign. The survey revealed that although the country's consumers are increasingly aware of the dangers posed by salt and know that too much salt is bad for them, realising that it can cause high blood pressure and other serious illness, they are not doing much about it.  Very few people are regularly checking labels for the salt content even though they recognise that most salt comes from processed foods, and even fewer are acting on what they find.

The five-year plan calls on food manufacturers and caterers to reduce the salt content of foods by 25 per cent. The campaign will also increase consumer awareness as to the benefits of a low salt diet, encouraging them to read food labels, understand what the information means and choose foods that have less salt.

AWASH believes that by working with the industry to lower daily salt intake over the next five years to six grams per person a day, heart attack and stroke rates can be reduced by one fifth each year.

For further information on AWASH and to view a full copy of the consumer report please visit the AWASH website: www.awash.org.au.

Coverage received includes: www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/77982.php

AWASH

Professor Caryl Nowson spent six months in the UK and spent some of this time with CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health – UK division of WASH). She has been responsible for setting up the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH).AWASH members include not only experts on salt and blood pressure, but also journalists, nutritionists, with representation from the food industry including the Australian Grocers Council (AGC), Unilever and Coles supermarket. In spite of a more vigorous approach to healthy eating in the past in Australia, the importance of the effect of salt on blood pressure has not generally been recognised. The primary goal of AWASH is to ensure that the evidence about salt and its adverse effects on health are translated into policy in Australia, leading to a reduction in salt intake in the Australian population.

One major achievement by Professor Nowson and others was that they have been successful in reducing the recommended nutrient intake (RNI) for sodium from 2.5 g/day, which was set in the mid 1950s, to 1.6 g/day (4 grams of salt per day).

AWASH organised a scientific symposium around salt, which was held at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Nutrition Society of Australia in December 2006, which highlighted the issue to nutritionists and health professionals and also to the media.