There have been calls to slap stricter limits on food manufacturers as research reveals the “killer” impact of salt on Australia’s health.

Research from independent think tank the Grattan Institute has found some 2,500 people living in Australia are dying from illnesses caused by high salt intake annually.

The report urged the federal government to quickly overhaul its salt reduction policy which it said lags far behind other developed countries, including the UK.

“The average Australian eats far too much salt – almost double the recommended maximum. “That raises our blood pressure, and condemns thousands of Australians to live with hypertension, heart disease and the consequences of stroke,” the Grattan report said.

“Australian governments know that salt is a big problem. That’s why in 2021 they set a target to reduce salt intake by at least 30 per cent by 2030. But there has been almost no progress towards the target and there is no plan to get there.”


About three-quarters of salt in our diets is added during the food manufacturing process, the report said, making the real amount of sodium largely “invisible” to people when making food choices.

This means those opting for Australian classics such as two-minute noodles and meat pies are ingesting a whopping half of their recommended daily limit on salt in one meal.

While more visible labelling could be effective, a mandated salt limit similar to that seen in the UK and South Africa would dramatically reduce overall dietary salt intake, the Grattan report claimed

“Individuals and businesses can’t change this on their own. Instead, we rely on governments to make sure that the food we buy is safe to eat, and to make it easier to choose healthy options,” it said.

“But while other countries are pushing ahead with reforms to food labelling, taxation, and regulation, Australia is being left behind.”

About one in three Australians live with high blood pressure according to the AIHW, with more than two-thirds of the population considered as overweight or obese.

Poor individual diet choices should not be blamed for skyrocketing rates of obesity, the report said, nothing that unhealthy foods are far more widely available and “cheaper than ever.”

“Australians aren’t stuck with unhealthy diets because we are increasingly lazy, weak-willed, or don’t want to be healthy,” it read.

“Unhealthy supermarket foods go on sale almost twice as often as healthy options. When they do, the discounts are about 65 per cent bigger.”

“Many external forces push us towards certain food products and away from others. These influences add up.”

Grattan Institute said the federal government should make Australia’s existing salt limits mandatory by 2027 and expand menu-labelling for bakeries and fast-food restaurants to include salt content.

A loophole which exempts 20 per cent of products in each food category from salt limits should also be scrapped, the report said.

It also cited modelling from the University of Melbourne which predicted that tougher salt limits help the government save $35m in healthcare costs every year.

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