Monitoring the food supply - working with the food industry to reduce salt

Fast facts

  • In high income countries 75% of the salt we eat is hidden in processed food
  • The major sources of salt in our diet include bread, cereal products, processed meats, dairy products, crackers and sauces – not because they are the saltiest foods we eat, but because we eat so much of them.
  • Processed foods are increasingly becoming available in low and middle income countries
  • In order to reduce population salt intake we need to reduce the amount of salt in these foods

Background

Monitoring the food supply by collecting information on food composition, energy, salt, fat, saturated fat and sugar, is valuable in informing policy approaches. The purpose of collecting data is to provide information to support governments, industry and communities to develop and enact strategies to curb food-related NCDs.

In countries where the majority of salt consumed is from processed foods, this type of work is imperative to inform specific salt reduction strategies such as working with the food industry to reformulate foods to contain less salt.

The George Institute Food Policy Division established the Global Food Monitoring Group – which brings together countries to support them to monitor the nutrition composition of foods. The online database, which collaborators in each country can upload data on, using an agreed protocol for data collection, enables the monitoring of processed foods around the world.

Aims

The aim of monitoring the food supply is to help to identify where reformulation strategies would likely have the greatest impact and support an international approach to food companies, as well as company/manufacturer-specific monitoring.

 

Key discussion points

  • Close monitoring of the food supply informs consultation with the food industry, fostering a working relationship to promote reformulation activities and tracking progress over time.
  • Identifying products high in salt enables us to alert consumers, and direct them towards healthier options
  • Media coverage enables us to raise awareness of the dangers of eating too much salt, and where hidden salt may be found.

Product survey reports

  • Research conducted by The George Institute for Global Health reveals the high and unnecessary amount of salt in instant noodles sold in Australia and around the world:

Click here for key findings report: Know Your Noodles! key findings

Click here for full research paper: Know Your Noodles! pape

  • As part of the VicHealth Salt Partnership, and the ‘Unpack the salt’ campaign, led by The Heart Foundation in Victoria, we have conducted 5 product survey reports to analyse the changes in sodium contents in processed foods sold in Australia in 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2017, and compare sodium contents against existing Australian targets and those set by The Department of Health in the United Kingdom (UK). This was with the view to understanding how much sodium is in these products and whether this has changed over time and informing direction for future reformulation efforts in Australia.

Bread

Cooking sauces

Ready Meals

Dips and Crackers

Processed meat