Skip to main content

How to help Australians pass on the salt

30 July 2015
Shaking off salt's health impact

Writing in the journal Nutrients, Dr Belinda Reeve and Professor Roger Magnusson warn that current efforts to reduce our salt intake are weak and too reliant on voluntary participation by the food industry.

A salt shaker dispensing salt.

The researchers are calling for the federal government to hold companies to account for not meeting goals set out in the Food and Health Dialogue – the existing salt reduction initiative between government, the food industry and public health organisations.

Shaking up salt's health impact

"The federal government could reinvigorate the Food and Health Dialogue by setting a national target for reducing population salt intake, recruiting a greater number of participants (including fast-food companies), strengthening governance structures, and creating incentives for compliance,” said the paper’s co-author, Dr Belinda Reeve of Sydney Law School.

“An effective salt reduction program requires that poorly performing companies are held accountable for their performance, including through the application of penalties.”

Too much salt

High salt consumption has a number of negative health effects:

  • Salt intake has a progressive relationship with high blood pressure.
  • High blood pressure increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and it affects one in three Australians.
  • Cardiovascular disease is Australia’s leading cause of mortality.

While the dialogue has made some progress in reducing the salt content of foods such as bread and cheese, it has not produced consistent improvements in the nutritional quality of all targeted products. There is substantial variation in the extent to which participating food companies meet the dialogue’s targets, and none of the targets have been achieved completely, according to the paper.

Tackling cardiovascular disease

Co-author Professor Roger Magnusson said progress towards reducing salt intake could still be made through a partnership approach. Such partnership needs to be driven by clear targets, transparency, independent evaluation of progress, and closer oversight from government and community representatives.

“Results matter, and the fact is that the current industry-driven approach has failed to produce results of the scale that are needed to make a difference to diet-related disease in Australia,” said Professor Magnusson.

Apart from being Australia’s most expensive disease, cardiovascular disease is responsible for 34 percent of all deaths in Australia.

Luke O'Neill

Media and Public Relations Adviser
  • + 61 481 012 600
  • + 61 2 9351 4312
  • Room 601, Level 6 Law School F10

Related articles

23 June 2016

Australia 20 years after gun reform: no mass shootings, declining firearm deaths

Since major gun law reform 20 years ago, Australia has seen no mass shootings and an accelerating decline in intentional firearm deaths, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports today.

23 June 2016

New insights into the causes of sudden cardiac death in the young revealed

Sudden cardiac death claims the lives of 2-3 young Australians every week. 

28 June 2016

Are itchier insect bites more likely to make us sick?

New research suggests the worse our reactions to mosquito bites are, the more likely it is we’ll get sick, says Dr Cameron Webb.

15 June 2016

How can we make sense of the Orlando shooting?

As the world mourns the tragic loss of 50 lives, how can we answer the questions around homophobia and mental health raised by the Orlando shooting? Our researchers appeared on ABC’s The Drum to discuss the complex debate. 

13 December 2016

Confidence boost linked to weight loss in smartphone trial

Confidence is key when motivating young people to change their diet and exercise habits, new research from the University of Sydney shows.

13 December 2016

Sydney alum off to Stanford as Monash scholar

University of Sydney alumnus Dr Martin Seneviratne has been named the 2017 Roden Cutler NSW John Monash Scholar. The award will see Dr Seneviratne head to Stanford University to continue his ground-breaking work into clinical informatics.

14 December 2016

Brain structure best explains our dwindling tolerance of risk

Nature findings will improve understanding of decision-making, as global demographics shift toward an aged population. 

14 December 2016

Exotic mosquitoes a clear and present danger for Australians

Fears of outbreaks of Zika and dengue due to Australian travellers visiting affected countries this summer.

08 December 2016

Minister Ley launches Psychology clinics in Brain and Mind Centre

Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Sussan Ley today launched the one-stop-shop psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience clinics, touring the new facilities leading the way in multidisciplinary brain and mind care.

12 December 2016

Child mummy offers revised history of smallpox

A child mummy from the 17th century, found in a crypt underneath a Lithuanian church, was discovered to harbour the oldest known sample of the variola virus that causes smallpox.