Food industry continues to work on reducing salt in foods

Press Release 25/03/2012

Food companies inNew Zealandare continuing to make great strides in reducing the amount of salt in foods, Food & Grocery Council CEO Katherine Rich says.

She is commenting at the start of World Salt Awareness Week, and which this year has stroke as its theme. Stroke has been selected because salt is one of the factors that can raise blood pressure, the single most important factor for stroke.

Mrs Rich saysNew Zealandcompanies have done and are continuing “important work” to reduce salt in foods.

“Although many companies started reducing salt in foods a decade ago, this work continues to gain major momentum both here and around the world.

“Great progress has been made, for example, by the bread and breakfast cereal industry, while work is beginning on processed meats.

“Bread reformulation has taken place quickly, and I’m informed that manufacturers have been able to reduce the salt content of many leading breads by 15%, resulting in about 150 tonnes of salt being removed from the bread supply each year.

“Cereals have had to be reformulated slowly and over a long period of time, but in one year alone a total of more than 7.5 tonnes were removed from many popular brands. And as the companies are continually reformulating, they are achieving reductions of between 5% and 25% at one time, as determined by consumer acceptance.

“However, reducing salt in some foods has to be gradual to give time for peoples’ taste buds to adjust. Because humans’ taste preference for salt is learned, a gradual reduction allows our taste buds to adapt so changes are not noticeable.”

Mrs Rich says calls to regulate salt in foods is “simplistic and unrealistic”.

“No country in the world has regulated the reduction of salt in foods. Lowering salt content can be a technological challenge, and companies spend a lot of time and money investigating ways of doing it. Salt is an integral part of the manufacturing process and is involved in the end taste, texture, and flavour of food.”

Mrs Rich says the industry is also working with other stakeholders by way of the Heart Foundation’s HeartSAFE programme. This is a collaboration of food manufacturers, food industry associations, and health and regulatory agencies, and aims to support the work already done by manufacturers and encourage further salt reduction in popular pre-prepared foods.

“We need a concerted effort to bring the nation’s salt intake down. Action is already under way in some parts of the food supply – such as cafes, bakeries, restaurants, and fast-food outlets – but more is needed.”

Companies noted for their work in reducing salt include Goodman Fielder and George Weston Foods with bread, Kellogg, Hubbard, and Sanitarium with breakfast cereals, Bluebird with many of their snack ranges, Nestle across a wide number of foods, Mars with their sauces, and Heinz Wattie’s, Arnotts, and Unilever.