PROCESSED food warning
New Zealanders need to be more vigilant about the amount of salt they are getting from processed foods, writes Heart Foundation head of nutrition DA VID MONRO . The warning follows the recent World Salt Awareness Week.
Processed foods currently contribute around 75 per cent of New Zealanders’ salt (sodium) intake. Bread is the largest contributor, followed by processed meats such as sausages, bacon and ham.
Sauces, cheese and breakfast cereals can also be high in salt. This last point often comes as a complete surprise to people, given that cereals and also breads don’t have a noticeable salt taste.
New Zealand’s salt intake is currently around 9g – just over one teaspoon a day – which is above the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 5g a day. High salt intake has proven links with high blood pressure which increases the risk of people developing heart disease – New Zealand’s biggest killer.
In light of processed foods’ contribution to salt intake, food companies can play an important role in helping to reduce levels.
Many food companies have embraced sodium reduction as an important initiative and have worked to reduced levels, accordingly, without compromising taste.
Good examples of this include an approximate 20 per cent drop in sodium levels of leading breads, a third less sodium in popular children’s breakfast cereals and positive sodium reductions in processed meats like sausages. These changes have occurred slowly over the past 10 years and equate to over 200 tonnes of salt (per annum) being removed from targeted food products.
While many food companies have been making some good changes, more work is needed across the food supply chain, including fast food outlets, cafés and restaurants.
If people want to make significant reductions they need to opt for more whole foods and less processed products. This is particularly important for children who can develop a preference for salt over time.