ACT News

Food companies defy salt reduction in national review

Lead researcher Professor Bruce Neal.
Lead researcher Professor Bruce Neal.  

Makers of such lunch-time favourites as devon and cocktail frankfurts have come under fire in a review of food company compliance with government salt reduction targets.

The new study also found many food brands were defying their December 2013 targets and failing to reduce salt in their products.

Deli meat makers Primo Smallgoods have been accused of going backwards.

Study co-author Helen Trevena said fewer products from Primo Smallgoods' products met the target in 2013 than they did in 201309.

She said it was "disappointing" the manufacturer, Primo Smallgoods had "appeared to have gone back on their commitment".

The report, published in the journal Nutrients, is the first to monitor voluntary salt reduction targets set up in 2009 under the Australian Food and Health Dialogue and was completed by the George Institute for Global Health.


The news was not all bad as the study found compliance rising slowly across the board. 

Bread, the main source of salt for most Australians, had lower salt than  it did in 2009 with the overall proportion of breads at the 400mg per 100g target rising from 42 per cent to 67 per cent.

Breakfast cereals also did all right, with the average box of corn flakes falling from 316mg per 100g to 237mg per 100g or 25 per cent lower.

However, lead researcher Professor Bruce Neal said that the target was fairly soft.

"With breakfast cereals the target that was set was actually a tricky one to monitor because it was a proportional reduction, so while there is some improvement there many cereals are still pretty salty," Professor Neal said.

Along with Primo, the processed meat industry was singled out by researchers as making the slowest progress.  The proportion of salamis, hams, chicken and other meat mixtures meeting the target rose from 28 per cent to 47 per cent. 

Marketing manager at Primo Smallgoods Ian Hancock said the company remained "committed to developing high quality products that meet our customers' expectations for flavour, health and value for money".

"Products like Primo's Salt Reduced Leg Ham not only meet but exceed these guidelines," Mr Hancock said.

Moves to reduce sugar, salt and fat in food may be voluntary, but the institute's new website launched on Wednesday night will show up products for what they are made of.

Public health advocates have been waiting for a similar new government website after federal Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash's controversial intervention to have the initial website removed.

The new Foodswitch STARS site will allow consumers to type in any supermarket product and find their nutritional rating using the Health Department's own ratings system

The Australian Food and Grocery Council, which represents manufacturers and supermarket chains, has rejected the damning assessment of industry progress.

"Progress is being made and continues to be made in the reformulation process, and we will continue to work with health groups and government to continue to reduce sodium," a spokesman for the council said.