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.
Monitoring the food supply by routinely collecting information on food composition, including 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 diet 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.
The aim of monitoring the food supply is 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.
Monitoring the food supply includes:
- State of the food supply reports
- VicHealth product category reports
- Public consultation responses
Product Category 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:
Key findings report: Know Your Noodles! key findings (Found here)
Full research paper: Know Your Noodles! paper (Found here)
As part of the VicHealth Salt Partnership, and the ‘Unpack the salt’ campaign, led by The Heart Foundation in Victoria, we have conducted nine product survey reports to analyse the changes in sodium contents in processed foods sold in Australia between 2010 to 2019, and compare sodium contents against existing Australian targets and those set by The Department of Health in the United Kingdom (UK). This was to understand how much sodium is in these products and whether this has changed over time, which informs the direction for future reformulation efforts in Australia.