Parents want salt on the agenda and off the table

1 February 2008

Pile of salt

Zak Atkinson, 4, takes his toy truck up the 2.5kg salt ‘mountain’ the average Australian child consumes in a year.

In a consumer poll released by the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH), 86% of parents interviewed wanted more action taken on the hidden ‘killer’ in their children’s food. Children who consume more than the recommended* amount of salt are exposed to increased risk of high blood pressure, which is a major contributor to cardiovascular diseases.

Some 3.5 million Australians suffer from such diseases, which are often caused by preventable factors such as diet and exercise levels. Based on current diet information, children are likely to be consuming more than twice their recommended salt intake, putting them at increased risk of debilitating disease in later life.

Parent of two, Shalani McCray said, “I purchase low salt options in the supermarket and make most of my children’s food from scratch, so I’m aware of how much salt is in their diet. It’s hard to manage though.”

A George Institute hosted “Drop the Salt!” debate yesterday was attended by Senator Jan McLucas and senior food industry representatives including the Australian Food and Grocery Council. There was overwhelming support from a packed audience of health professionals, dietitians and medical experts for a concerted approach from Government, the food industry and parents to control childrens’ salt intake to help avert a looming health crisis.

The road to lower salt will not be an easy one, warned Bruce Neal Chair of AWASH, as much of the salt children consume is ‘hidden’ in some of their favourite foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, processed meats and pizzas. “That’s why it’s so important for Government and the food industry to support parents with good information, clear food labeling and low salt product choices. The rewards of doing this, measured in a healthier future for our kids, must be worth the effort”, he said.

Resources for editors:

Full parent testimonial
Kid’s Meal Salt Score Card

Notes for editors

*The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends a maximum upper level of 3.5g salt per day for 4-8 year olds, and 5g for 9-13 year olds.

Typical Children’s Meal Summary

Breakfast Salt grams per serve
Rice Breakfast Cereal 30g 0.54g
Toast 1 Slice White 0.52g
Dairy Spread 5g 0.073g
Yeast Spread 5g 0.043g
Packet of Corn Chips 46g 0.63g
Packed Lunch
White Bread 2 slices 1.04g
Cheddar Cheese 21g 0.74g
Ham 1 Slice 16g 0.44g
Margarine 5g 0.07g
Apple 1 <0.01g
Yoghurt 200g Tub Fruit 0.43g
Pasta with Cheese Sauce 52g 1.65g
Mixed Frozen Vegetables 100g 0.04g
Total Dietary Sodium Intake 6.2g Salt

Recommended Daily Intake for 4-8 years old = 300 – 1400 mg of sodium (3.5g Salt)