Academics should do homework before demanding tax on salt

5 May 2015

Academics should their homework on food production and the work the food industry is doing before making the same old calls for taxes on things such as salt, says FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich.

She also said taxing salt would put up the price of many foods, and that would hit the poorest particularly hard.

She was responding to a paper published yesterday by academics from the University of Otago in Wellington which called for a tax on salt as a way of cutting intake and improving health.

“In the past two years the same academics have called for fat taxes, sugar taxes and now a tax on salt.

“These are all regressive taxes that hit the poor hardest by raising the cost of essential grocery items. The $452 million that they cheerily announce would come from such a tax would come straight out of the pockets of hard-working New Zealanders.   

“These academics would benefit from learning more about food production and the food industry. The reality of food production is that some food products can’t be made at all without salt. Salt has some specific functions in food production eg preservation, taste.  

“However, it’s important that people consider how much salt they’re consuming. 

“There’s no doubt some Kiwis do eat too much, so the Food & Grocery Council supports campaigns to remind people about healthy consumption. As with all foods, the key is moderation and a balanced diet.

“I wonder if the writers are aware of the massive amount of work that has been done and continues to be done on salt reduction.

“Over the past few decades, food companies have worked hard to reformulate to reduce unnecessary salt. Some successes are highlighted in previous FGC comments (see below).

“A salt reduction project by the bread industry and the Heart Foundation is a good example. A couple of years ago the HeartSAFE project estimated that the bread salt reduction project removed 150 tonnes of salt from the bread supply each year, while food companies that make breakfast cereals have also removed hundreds of tonnes of salt from products as a result of a similar project with the Heart Foundation. 

“While the authors call for mandatory salt reductions of 25%, this is impossible if food companies have already taken steps to get salt levels down to the lowest level.

“There is a point beyond which the recipe is ruined or consumers might not like the taste.”

Recent FGC articles on salt reduction:

Food industry continues to work on reducing salt in foods

Salt is the world’s oldest food additive and a necessity for human life

Industry helps lead charge