Clearer food labels needed to reduce salt intakes

Friday, 06 June, 2008

The latest consumer poll from the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) confirmed that while Australians may be aware that too much salt in their diets leads to health problems, most do not understand how to work out the salt content from the nutrition labels.

The results of the consumer poll were announced by AWASH senior project manager Jacqui Webster at a workshop at the Dietitians’ Association of Australia National Conference on the Gold Coast on Friday. Over 80 conference delegates attended the workshop and all backed the AWASH call for federal government leadership to introduce clearer labelling highlighting the salt content of foods.

Said Jacqui Webster, “AWASH doesn't have a fixed position on which front-of-pack labelling scheme is the best but wants the government to take action to make sure that any scheme introduced is standard across the industry and in the best interests of consumers. This is not just key to salt reduction, but to obesity, diabetes and a multitude of other diet-related diseases.”

In addition to the call for clearer labelling, there was a strong call for the federal government’s National Diet and Physical Activity Survey, promised for 2009, to include measures to enable an accurate assessment of the current salt intakes of the Australian population. “At the moment, it is clear that salt intakes are too high, but there is no up-to-date data confirming precise levels or to show if salt intakes have increased or decreased since they were last measured. This should be an important part of any dietary survey to ensure that the impact of work to reduce salt intakes can be monitored effectively,” said Ms Webster.

Claire Hewat, executive director of the Dietitians Association of Australia, added: "The DAA supports initiatives that make it easier for Australians to choose healthy foods, and that includes clear nutrition labelling on food and drinks. But any new labelling initiative needs to be carefully looked at to make sure it doesn’t further confuse Australians. In Australia, we don’t have up-to-date information on what we’re eating as a population. We need ongoing national nutrition monitoring and surveillance across all population groups, so we would welcome any moves by the government in this area," said Ms Hewat.

It was suggested that the federal government needed to support raising consumer awareness about the health benefits of reduced salt diets to increase the market for lower salt foods.


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