As research shows the “killer effect” of salt on Australia’s health, there have been calls for stricter restrictions on food manufacturers.
The Grattan Institute, an independent think tank, has conducted research that shows that 2,500 Australians die each year from diseases caused by excessive salt consumption.
The report called on the federal government, in particular the UK, to overhaul its policy of salt reduction, which it claimed lags behind that of other developed countries.
The average Australian consumes almost twice as much salt than recommended. The Grattan Report said that “this raises our bloodpressure and condemns thousands to live with hypertension and heart disease, as well as the effects of stroke.”
“Australian governments are aware that salt is a major problem. In 2021, they set the goal of reducing salt intake by 30 percent by 2030. There has been little progress in reaching the goal, and no plan is in place to get it.
A person who consumes 10 grams of sodium per day has a nearly a fifth higher chance of dying in 20 years.
The report stated that about three-quarters of the salt we consume is added to our food during manufacturing, which makes the true amount of sodium “invisible” to people making food decisions.
In one meal, those who choose Australian classics like two-minute noodles or meat pies consume half their daily salt limit.
The Grattan Report claimed that while more visible labels could be effective, mandating a salt limit similar to those seen in South Africa and the UK would drastically reduce the overall salt intake of the diet.
Individuals and companies can’t do anything about it. We rely instead on the government to ensure that we can eat food and make it easy to make healthy choices.
While other countries have pushed ahead with reforms in food labeling and taxation, Australia has been left behind.
According to the AIHW, about one-third of Australians have high blood pressure, and more than two-thirds are overweight or obese.
The report stated that poor individual diet choices are not to blame for the skyrocketing obesity rates despite the fact that unhealthy food is more readily available and cheaper than ever.
It read: “Australians don’t have to eat unhealthy foods because they are lazy, weak willed or don’t care about their health.”
Healthy supermarket food is on sale twice as frequently as unhealthy options. “When they do, discounts are around 65 per cent larger.”
Many external forces drive us to certain food products and away from other foods. “These influences add up.”
Grattan Institute says the federal government should enforce Australia’s current salt limits by 2027 and expand menu labeling to include salt content for fast-food restaurants and bakeries.
The report also said that the loophole that exempts 20% of food products from salt limits in each food group should be closed.
The report also cited a model from the University of Melbourne that predicted that stricter limits on salt would help the government save $35m a year in healthcare costs.