Public Awareness

Consumer Research

a father and young daughter having dinnerIn order to understand issues relating to salt amongst the Australian population, AWASH is planning to conduct a series of surveys. The surveys will seek to collect information about the level of knowledge relating to salt and health, to identify opportunities to reduce salt intake levels, to better understand food labelling issues and to monitor the impact of the ‘Drop the Salt!’ campaign.

This first survey in the series was conducted in March 2007 to provide a baseline from which the 5-year AWASH Action Plan can be judged.

2007 Survey of Australian Consumer Awareness and Practices Relating to Salt [PDF 90KB]

The main findings were as follows:

Salt and health Nearly three quarters of survey participants were concerned about salt in their diet, making salt the third leading concern about food content after saturated fat and sugar. Two thirds of people knew that salt was bad for health. While most knew that it caused high blood pressure, about a quarter did not understand that salt increased risks of heart attack or stroke. Less than a half knew of the harmful effects of salt on the kidneys.

Recommended daily intake More than a half thought that they were probably eating either less than or about the amount of salt recommended by the National Heart Foundation of Australia. However, only a small minority of those surveyed actually knew the recommended maximum daily intake.

Salt in the Australian diet Almost three quarters of people correctly identified the main source of salt in the Australian diet as processed foods. Participants were also able to correctly place about two thirds of a list of commonly eaten foods into high, medium or low salt categories. However, knowledge of the salt content of some foods making major contributions to salt in the Australian diet (for example white bread and breakfast cereals) was not good.

Food labelling The quantity of salt in processed food is labelled in the form of sodium in Australia and less than half of survey participants understood the relationship between salt and sodium. Furthermore, only a quarter reported regularly checking food labels for salt content.

Responsibility for reducing salt About half the group thought that they themselves should be responsible for reducing their salt intake. One third thought that the responsibility was mainly with industry.

Actions to reduce salt One-third reported that they regularly tried to buy ‘low salt’ or ‘no added salt’ foods. Only a fifth of people reported regularly acting on the information they found about salt on food labels. There were still about one-fifth who reported that they often added salt during cooking and the same number who reported often adding salt at the table.

Comparability of findings amongst people of different age, sex and education level There was rather little variation in the main findings across these different population groups. Older people seemed somewhat more likely to know about the adverse effects of salt on health, to be more concerned about it and to be more likely to check food labels. Women knew less of the relationship between salt and sodium but were more likely to check food labels as were people educated to a higher level. However, while women were somewhat more likely to try and buy low salt foods this was not true for older people or the more educated.

Implications and AWASH action

The majority of people are concerned about salt in food and are aware of the adverse health implications of eating too much salt. However, there are still a significant number that are not aware. Action needs to be taken to ensure that the whole of the population is aware of the health benefits of a low salt diet.

Despite the fact that most people are concerned about and understand the health implications of too much salt, most do not know the recommended daily intake and are not taking action to reduce their salt intakes. Action is required to increase public awareness about the main sources of salt in Australian diets and how to reduce the amount of salt in individual and family diets.

Salt and Kids’ Health

AWASH also plans to raise public awareness of the impact of salt on the health of Australian children. It will work with education departments, schools, parents and kids to ensure they are aware of children’s salt intake, and ways to reduce it.

The Food Industry

checking food labelMore than 75% of salt consumed by Australians is eaten as ‘hidden’ salt. This is the salt that is in processed foods. Salt added to food at the table represents only a small proportion of daily salt intake.

AWASH launched its Drop the Salt! campaign in May 2007 to develop a five-year strategy to reduce salt in processed foods by 25%. The strategy aims to secure high level commitment from Australia’s food industry to activate ways to reformulate food products with lower salt options. The Australian food industry has begun to make good progress and recognises that more needs to be done.

Individual food company agreements are being negotiated with AWASH experts including Dr Bruce Neal, Chair of AWASH, Senior Director at The George Institute for International Health and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney, and Ms Jacqui Webster, AWASH Project Manager and previous coordinator of the UK Food Standards Agency’s salt reduction strategy.

AWASH has also secured support from other key stakeholders including the food industry.

The food industry in Australia has already taken steps to reduce salt in some food products, partly in order to meet the criteria required to obtain the National Heart Foundation’s Tick accreditation but also as awareness of AWASH objectives grow. The AWASH food industry strategy will be building on the action already taken to reduce salt in some food products and the continued commitment of the food industry to make further changes. Some of the commitments and actions are detailed below:

Manufacturers

Australian Food and Grocery Council is the peak national organisation representing Australia’s packaged food, drink and grocery products manufacturing industry. It supports initiatives contributing to the objective of improving public health through healthy eating including reducing hypertension through a target daily salt intake for adults below 6g per day. The AFGC advocates that the food industry should continue to review product formulations and processing technologies with a view to reducing the use of salt, whilst still ensuring that food products remain appealing to consumers in taste, convenience and price and that product safety and integrity can be maintained throughout an appropriate shelf-life.

The WHO report, Reducing Salt Intake in Populations, released in April 2007, emphasises the need to work closely with food manufacturers as the cornerstone of any successful national salt reduction campaign.

Many manufacturers have already made a significant impact on reducing salt in foods. For example:

Heinz Australia has signed up as a supporter in principle of the AWASH group, due to its intention to improve the diets of Australians and raise awareness about health. This message is consistent with Heinz Australia’s current approach to continuously developing quality, flavoursome foods whilst being considerate of health and people’s changing needs.

Heinz Australia has been reducing salt in recipes across a range of products such as soups, meals and sauces for some time and continues to do so in current and future planned launches and varieties. These changes are backed up by extensive taste testing and consumer research to ensure that flavour is not compromised, and our products move in line with changing consumer tastes.

Heinz supports activities that educate and increase public awareness of health and wellness initiatives such as managing salt intake. Heinz, in support of Salt Awareness Week, is undertaking a staff survey to raise awareness and respond to our own internal knowledge about salt or sodium in the Australian diet.

Kellogg is committed to continually reviewing and improving the amount of sodium in their products. In 1997, Kellogg commenced a salt reduction program in breakfast cereals, which resulted in the removal of around 250 tonnes of salt from the Australian food supply. Since the commencement of the program, it has reduced the sodium content in 12 key products, including Sultana Bran, Rice Bubbles and Corn Flakes by an average of 40%.

It also intends to launch new products which are lower in salt including Corn Flakes Wholegrain, which contain 47% less sodium than Corn Flakes Original, and Coco Pops Coco Rocks, which contain 40% less sodium than Coco Pops as part of its commitment to offering people lower salt options to meet their individual needs.

Lowan Whole Foods is committed to providing consumers with high quality whole foods that promote good health. It recently re-launched and extended its children’s range of cereals to improve nutritional values including having a low level of salt. All products in the Lowan Kids range now meet the criteria for a low salt food. Lowan has set a significant benchmark when it comes to salt reduction and encourages other food manufactures to consider similar initiatives.

Lowan Whole Foods congratulates AWASH for taking a stand against salt and wholeheartedly supports the AWASH salt reduction campaign. Lowan Whole Foods has been providing quality whole foods to consumers for over 30 years, and recognises the importance of providing children with healthy products that in turn will promote a healthier future generation.

It understands that significantly reducing salt levels in manufactured foods presents a difficult challenge, particularly in the breakfast cereal category. However, Lowan has proven that it can be done through the development of its new Lowan Kids range. It has set a significant benchmark when it comes to salt reduction by reducing the salt content in its children’s cereal Honey O’s by over 1/3 to just 81mg per 100g, and encourages other food manufactures to consider similar salt reduction initiatives in the interest of our nation’s health.

The Sanitarium Health Food Company is committed to producing nutritious foods to help people experience happy healthy lives. Sanitarium recognizes the importance of salt reduction and in 2000 introduced a Corporate Nutrition Policy that set key nutrient benchmarks, including sodium for each product category. With the introduction of the Corporate Nutrition Policy, several products were reformulated to reduce the sodium content. For example, the sodium in our Cornflakes was reduced by 13% and Vegie Delights Not Burgers was reduced by 49%. Sanitarium aims to reduce sodium content in new product development wherever possible and two new Vegie Delights products developed had sodium levels 68% lower than the existing product range (average values). Sanitarium products that meet the “low in salt” criteria (< 120mg/100g) include:
Honey Weets, Lite-Bix, Puffed Wheat
All So Good beverages
All Up & Go and Up & Go Energize flavours
No Added Salt Peanut Butter, Natural Peanut Butter
John Tickell’s 12 Vegetable Soup – Minestrone and Vegetable
Weet-Bix Kids
Plain nuts (no added salt), plain dried fruits, seeds, dried legumes, Rolled oats & Oat bran, Unprocessed bran, Unpearled barley, Apricot Delight
Vitality dried fruit and nut range
The Smith’s Snackfood Company is committed to reducing the salt content across its entire product range by 25% over the next five years and it has already started to make good progress. It has reduced the sodium level in Smith’s Original Crinkle Cut Potato Chips, the most popular potato chip flavour in the Smith’s range, by 17% versus the level in 2006. The sodium level on Twisties Cheese flavoured snacks is also being reduced by 5% versus the same time last year. Changes will vary from product to product as it balances reducing salt levels with not adversely affecting taste and consumer acceptability.

Unilever Australasia recognises the importance of reducing salt in the food supply. Salt is one of the 4 nutrients (along with saturated fat, trans fat and sugar) that it has been reducing in its products since 2001 as part of its Nutrition Enhancement Program.

Unilever has been reducing salt for many years before that. During the 1990’s, more than 250 tonnes of salt was removed from its Flora® spreads products. Since 2001, it has reduced the salt content of more than 155 Continental® products (including Cup-a-soup, Pasta & Sauce, Rices, Recipe Mixes and Stocks) by on average 30%. As a result, about 60 tonnes of salt have been removed from the food supply. Sodium (salt) criteria have been developed to guide new product development and these benchmarks are regularly reviewed. The salt reduction program is underpinned by an on-going technical research program in research centres in Germany and the Netherlands.

Supermarkets

Coles is committed to developing its Housebrand food offer in a nutritionally balanced way and will look to reduce salt levels in its housebrand foods while continuing to ensure great taste and minimising potential cost impacts to its customers.

Quick Food Service Sector

McDonald’s Australia became the first fast food restaurant chain to earn the Heart Foundation Tick in 2007 for nine meals. McDonald’s has modified their recipes for chicken marinades, sauces and salad dressings and has reduced the salt in the Deli Choices bread rolls by 43%. The modified ingredients used in the Tick approved meals are now used across the whole McDonald’s Australia menu. McDonald’s continues to look at opportunities to provide more choices and information to suit the needs of their customers. McDonald’s has achieved an average salt reduction of 32% through recipe changes, removing over two and a half thousand kilograms of salt a year from the food supply.

Compass Group has an ongoing program of salt reduction as part of its overall Health and Wellness program which includes reformulation and labelling in relation to specific criteria for fat, energy, fibre and salt. This runs in parallel with monthly food and nutrition education sessions for food service staff.

Research Institutions

Food Science Australia, together with a number of Australian food manufacturing companies, is starting a research project to find out if food structure design can be used to control salt perception in emulsion based foods. The aim is to design foods that provide an enhanced perception of the salt ions when the food is broken down by chewing. Such a technology would provide the opportunity to reduce the salt content while maintaining the salt perception of a high salt containing food. These new foods are being developed with the assistance of an in vitro model that mimics the in-mouth processes that occur during mastication. These foods will also be tested by sensory panels. The project is planned to run for three years and is starting in February 2008.

“The work that was done in the UK… to reduce salt levels in processed foods was an excellent example of government and industry working effectively together on an important issue of public health. Over a period of three years very significant reductions were made across a broad range of product categories that included everything from bread and breakfast cereals to soups and meal sauces”.

Gavin Neath – Chairman, Unilever Bestfoods

Drop the Salt! Campaign

What are we trying to do?

In order to reduce the average amount of salt consumed by Australians to 6g per day by 2012, AWASH has four main objectives:

An average 25% reduction in the salt content of food
An average 25% reduction in salt used by the catering industry
Increased consumer knowledge of the benefits of low salt diets
Clear labelling of foods that makes the salt content immediately apparent to the consumer

How will we do this?

To achieve this it is proposed that the campaign is rolled out in the following stages:
Year 1

Focus on reduction of salt by the industry (retailers and manufacturers) (25% over 5 years)
Promote a really simple message e.g. Drop the Salt! to get the issue on the agendas of all stakeholder organisations
Commission research to better understand consumer awareness of the issues
Involve stakeholders and consumers by inviting them to call the industry to action
Form partnerships with consumer organisations/health charities to continue to raise consumer awareness
Raise salt reduction as a priority on the agendas of all stakeholder organisations

Year 2

Strengthen consumer campaign highlighting that salt is bad for health
Expand focus of work with industry to include catering sector
Consider position on front of pack labelling
Do consumer research into understanding of current labelling requirements

Year 3

Consumer campaign to check the label
Progress on front of pack labelling
Targeted children’s campaign

Year 4 and 5

Will depend on evaluation of the outcomes of the other years

“The work that was done in the UK… to reduce salt levels in processed foods was an excellent example of government and industry working effectively together on an important issue of public health. Over a period of three years very significant reductions were made across a broad range of product categories that included everything from bread and breakfast cereals to soups and meal sauces”.

Gavin Neath – Chairman, Unilever Bestfoods

Evidence Summary

There are a multitude of different types of studies that have examined the effects of salt on health. They range from small laboratory-based projects to large population-based investigations. While the results of individual pieces of work have varied, the totality of the evidence is incontrovertible – most of the world’s population eats far more salt than it needs and the adverse effects on global health are enormous.
Salt intake and blood pressure

The clearest adverse effect of salt is on blood pressure. Observational studies comparing individuals and populations that eat different amounts of salt show a striking association of salt consumption with blood pressure. The more salt eaten, the higher is the blood pressure and the greater is the increase in blood pressure with age. And this is true not just for people with hypertension, but for the majority of the world’s population. Salt consumption is above that required for good health in most of the world’s population. Salt consumption above this level will cause some rise in the blood pressure of billions of people worldwide every year with consequent effects on the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease.

Salt reduction and blood pressure

Experimental studies confirm the observational studies. Overviews of more than thirty randomised trials in which people were assigned to eat different amounts of salt showed clear benefits of reducing salt consumption on blood pressure. And the greater the salt reduction, the greater was the blood pressure reduction. Once again, the effect was observed not just in people with hypertension but also in people with normal blood pressure levels.

Salt reduction and health outcomes

There are strong data linking salt consumption to major adverse health outcomes. First, salt has clear effects on blood pressure, and high blood pressure is the biggest single cause of death in the world. Blood pressure lowering with drug therapies bring about substantially reduced risks of heart attack, stroke and heart failure and there is every expectation that the same effects would be achieved by blood pressure reduction through reduced salt consumption.

While studies of the direct effects of salt on mortality have shown varied results, the majority show adverse effects and those that do not have significant limitations in their design. Most recently, long-term follow-up of the participants of two large-scale randomised trials have shown that people assigned to reduced salt 10-15 years earlier had a 25-30% lower risk of cardiovascular events than those who continued with their usual salty diets. This evidence has greatly strengthened the argument for salt reduction.
Further Information
Summaries and Reports

Reducing Salt Intake in Populations
WHO Forum and Technical Meeting on Reducing Salt Intake in Populations.

Consensus Action on Salt and Health website – Evidence

Why 6g, A summary of the scientific evidence for the salt reduction target
Reviews and meta-analysis

He FJ, MacGregor GA. Effect of longer-term modest salt reduction on blood pressure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;3:CD004937.

Gelenijnse JM, Kok FJ, Grobbee DE. Blood pressure response to changes in sodium and potassium intake: a metaregression analysis of randomised trials. J Human Hypertens. 2003; 17:471-80.

He FJ, MacGregor GA. Effect of modest salt reduction on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. Implications for public health. J Human Hypertens. 2002;16:761-70.
Key Papers

Alderman M H, Madhavan S, Cohen H, Sealey J E, Laragh J H. Low urinary sodium is associated with greater risk of myocardial infarction among treated hypertensive men. Hypertension. 1995;25:1144-52.

Alderman M H, Cohen H, Madhavan S. Dietary sodium intake and mortality: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I). Lancet. 1998;351:781-5.

de Wardener H E. Salt reduction and cardiovascular risk: the anatomy of a myth. J Human Hypertens. 1999;13:1-4.

Denton D, Weisinger R, Mundy NI, et al. The effect of increased salt intake on blood pressure of chimpanzees. Nat Med. 1995;1:1009-16.

Geleijnse JM, Hofman A, Witteman JC, et al. Long-term effects of neonatal sodium restriction on blood pressure. Hypertension. 1997;29:913-7.

Hofman A, Hazebroek A, Valkenburg HA. A randomized trial of sodium intake and blood pressure in newborn infants. JAMA. 1983;250:370-3.

INTERSALT. Intersalt: an international study of electrolyte excretion and blood pressure. Results for 24 hour urinary sodium and potassium excretion. Intersalt Cooperative Research Group. BMJ. 1988;297:319-28.

MacGregor G A, Markandu N D, Sagnella G A, et al. Double-blind study of three sodium intakes and long-term effects of sodium restriction in essential hypertension. Lancet. 1989;2:1244-7.

Nagata C, Takatsuka N, Shimizu N, Shimizu H. Sodium intake and risk of death from stroke in Japanese men and women. Stroke. 2004;35:1543-7.

Page L B, Vandevert DE, Nader K, Lubin NK, Page JR. Blood pressure of Qash’qai pastoral nomads in Iran in relation to culture, diet, and body form. Am J Clin Nutr. 1981;34:527-38.

Poulter NR, Khaw KT, Hopwood BE, et al. The Kenyan Luo migration study: observations on the initiation of a rise in blood pressure. BMJ. 1990;300:967-72.

Sacks FM, Svetkey LP, Vollmer WM, Appel LJ, Bray GA, Harsha D, et al. Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet. N Engl J Med. 2001;344:3-10.

Tuomilehto J, Jousilahti P, Rastenyte D, Moltchanov V, Tanskanen A, Pietinen P, Nissinen A. Urinary sodium excretion and cardiovascular mortality in Finland: a prospective study. Lancet. 2001;357:848-51.

Health Benefits

The less salt we eat, the better our health.

High salt diets are strongly linked to high blood pressure – a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases including stroke and heart attack.

It is widely recognised that a high salt diet has other adverse effects, including being a risk factor for kidney disease and stomach cancer.

Salt may also be implicated as an aggravator of asthma and a contributor to osteoarthritis.

Australian salt intake

The average Australian adult consumes about 9 grams of salt each day. This is far more than our bodies require to be healthy – we can survive on as little as a gram of salt each day.

Australians should reduce the amount of salt they eat to less than 6 grams per day – even further wherever possible. Australians with high blood pressure or an existing cardiovascular disease should reduce their salt intake to below 4 grams per day and even further if possible.
Benefits for children’s health

Eating too much salt can also influence children’s blood pressure and pre-dispose them to health problems in later life. As our capacity to rid our body of excess salt decreases as we age, it is very important to develop healthy habits when we are young.

Blood Pressure

a man has his blood pressure checkedEvidence shows that eating a low salt diet reduces blood pressure.

How does salt increase blood pressure?

As the salt content of our blood increases, our blood vessels retain water to try to keep the salt concentration balanced. This extra water increases the amount of blood in our vessels causing high blood pressure.

Why is high blood pressure bad for our health?

High blood pressure puts a strain on our blood vessels. It can also damage our heart, which has to work harder pumping blood at such high pressure around our bodies. This damage can lead to heart failure and can increase our risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Over time, high blood pressure can damage and weaken our arteries. This can cause illness and death, especially if the damaged section bursts in the brain or in the aorta, our main artery.

High blood pressure can also narrow blood vessels (arteries, veins and capillaries) because the walls of the blood vessels thicken and harden due to all the hard work that they are doing to handle the increased pressure. When this happens, the blood flow is reduced. This can damage the organs receiving the blood. A blood clot could also block a narrow artery, cutting off blood supply to part of the body.

As they get thicker and stiffer, our blood vessels also get less elastic. This causes further pressure increases as it means blood is getting pumped into a rigid system that can’t absorb any of the pressure.

Ongoing high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and arterial aneurysms. High blood pressure is also the second leading cause of chronic kidney failure.

Nearly 30% of Australians have high blood pressure, and over half of these people are unaware that they have it.
Low salt, low blood pressure

There is very strong evidence that links salt intake to blood pressure. Reducing your salt intake will help lower your blood pressure and your risk of health problems such as cardiovascular disease and kidney failure.

A reduction in salt intake of 1.7 grams per day^ results in a 2-5 mm Hg fall in systolic blood pressure. Recent evidence* suggests that a reduction in salt intake of 25 to 35% could lead to a 20% or greater reduction in risk of heart attacks and stroke.

^Summary of evidence statement on the relationships between dietary electrolytes and cardiovascular disease National Heart Foundation of Australia October 2006

*Cook NR, Cutler JA, Obarzanek E, Buring JE, Rexrode KM, Kumanyika SK, Appel LJ, Whelton PK. Long term effects of dietary sodium reduction on cardiovascular disease outcomes: observational follow-up of the trials of hypertension prevention (TOHP). British Medical Journal. 391476048, doi:10.1136/bmj.39147.604896.55

Kidneys

Kidney damage and failure

bread slices14% of Australians have some form of kidney damage.

High blood pressure, caused by salt, contributes to kidney damage because of the harm it does to blood vessels. For the same reason, once kidney damage has occurred, high blood pressure accelerates its progression towards kidney failure.

Kidney stones

A kidney stone is a hard mass formed in the kidney from crystals in the urine. Urinary crystals can be caused by high levels of certain substances (such as calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate) in the urine, an uneven balance of acid in the urine, or, a lack of substances that inhibit crystal formation in the urine. Kidney stones may cause pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, weakness, and cloudy, bloody or blocked urine.

A high salt diet may contribute to the likelihood of developing kidney stones due to the relationship between salt and the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Too much salt reduces the body’s ability to absorb calcium, leading to its loss through urine and a greater risk of developing kidney stones.

Cancer

japanese foodSalt intake is closely related to cancer of the stomach and is likely to be an important pre-disposing cause.

In the high concentrations found in foods such as some instant soups and soy sauces, salt is a profound gastric irritant. It has been suggested that a high salt intake strips the lining of the stomach and may pre-dispose the individual to infection from the Helicobactor pylori bacterium. Long-term Helicobactor pylori infection is considered a major risk factor for stomach cancer – it may lead to chronic inflammation of the inner layer of the stomach and possible pre-cancerous changes in the stomach lining. Keeping our salt intake low may help reduce the risk of cancer of the stomach.

Other Health Problems

nutrition information labelAside from the strong evidence linking high salt intake to high blood pressure, heart problems, cancer and kidney disease, salt has been implicated in some other health issues.

Osteoporosis

Salt intake has a direct relationship with how much calcium our bodies excrete through urine. The more salt we eat, the more salt we excrete, and the more calcium we excrete along with it.

There is now evidence to suggest that when we excrete too much calcium, our intestinal absorption of calcium increases and our bodies also compensate by using calcium from our bones. This has led some authors to suggest that lowering salt intake could reduce calcium excretion, leading to a positive calcium balance, increased bone density and reduced bone fractures. Studies to test this idea are yet to be conducted.

Asthma

Bronchial reactivity is linked to sodium balance. There is some evidence to suggest that the severity of asthma may relate to salt intake. There has also been a study that related a modest reduction in salt intake to a reduction of the severity of asthma attacks and an improvement in measurements of airways resistance in males. A more recent study illustrates the mechanism whereby a higher salt intake could exacerbate asthma.

So, while high salt intake is not a direct cause of asthma, it may be an aggravating factor.

Obesity

Thirst is an unavoidable consequence of eating foods with a high salt content. Where thirst is relieved with high-sugar or high-calorie beverages, such as soft-drinks or beer, it may contribute to weight gain.

Some authors have suggested that increases in salt consumption observed in the USA are strongly associated with increases in obesity there. The conclusion has been drawn that a reduction in salt intake could lead to a reduction in obesity. Salt sales in the USA were reported to have increased more than 50% between the mid-1980s and late-1990s, and these sales were paralleled by an increased consumption of beverages, which led to an increased intake of calories during the same period.

As suggestions of the link between salt intake and obesity gain further scientific support, there is an increasing argument to reduce salt intake as a means of combating the growing epidemic of obesity in Australia.

Ménière’s disease

Ménière’s disease is a condition with symptoms including vertigo, tinnitus, fluctuating hearing loss and a feeling of pressure in the ear.

The disease affects one in every 1000 Australians, most of whom are in their thirties or older.

Although the causes of Ménière’s are not well understood, one of the key strategies in treatment is a strict control of salt intake.

Salt and Children’s Health

Healthy head-start

Good eating habits in childhood can influence habits and health later in life

Children with higher blood pressure are more likely to develop hypertension as adults than children with lower blood pressure. Although the health problems associated with high blood pressure often don’t appear until later in life, they are strongly influenced by childhood health.

Keeping blood pressure low from childhood is probably the best way to avoid blood pressure-related health problems in later life.
Eating pattern development

Evidence also shows that dietary habits developed in childhood and adolescence can influence eating patterns later in life. Children who develop a preference for lower salt foods are likely to maintain this preference as they get older.

About Us

Picking a product from a supermarket shelfThe Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health (AWASH) is a growing network of individuals and organisations concerned with salt and its detrimental effects on health.

In May 2007, AWASH launched a 5-year salt reduction campaign. The Drop the Salt! campaign will unite health professionals, the food industry, government, scientists and consumer organisations in a commitment to action to reduce salt intake in Australia.

AWASH is the Australian arm of the global WASH group (World Action on Salt and Health).

Our Aims

man eating take awayThe mission of AWASH is to improve the health of Australians by achieving a gradual population-wide reduction in dietary salt consumption that will reduce cardiovascular diseases and other salt-related health problems.

The primary goal of AWASH is to reduce the average amount of salt consumed by Australians to 6g per day within the next five years.

This goal is set on the basis of national and international recommendations for salt consumption that would be both effective and achievable.

This goal will be achieved through four main strategies:

An average twenty-five percent reduction in the salt content of foods
An average twenty-five percent reduction in salt use by the catering industry
Increased population knowledge of the benefits of low salt diets
Clear labelling of foods that makes the salt content immediately apparent

AWASH will achieve this goal by promoting the benefits of salt reduction and engaging the participation of all sectors of the Australian community – this will include industry, schools, consumers, scientists, healthcare workers, governments, regulatory bodies and professional organisations. Regular monitoring of progress towards the goal and careful scrutiny of the development of each strategy will be undertaken throughout the campaign.

Coordinators

AWASH is coordinated by a group of individuals (the Secretariat) with broad scientific, policy, project management and communications expertise.

The Secretariat coordinates the day-to-day activities of AWASH and takes responsibility for its outputs.

Position Statements
Iodisation of Salt

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is proposing a new food standard for the the mandatory fortification of the food supply with iodine. In Draft Assessment, this proposal included the mandatory replacement of salt with iodised salt in breads, breakfast cereals and biscuits.

In response to the draft, AWASH made a submission to FSANZ with comments on the proposal and recommendations on the iodisation of the food supply.

AWASH Submission to FSANZ on Proposal P230 – Consideration of Mandatory Fortification with Iodine
AWASH Submission to FSANZ on Proposal P1003 – Mandatory Iodine Fortification for Australia

Obesity

The Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing is conducting an inquiry into obesity in Australia.AWASH made a submission to the inquiry

AWASH Submission to the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing Inquiry into Obesity in Australia

Australia 2020 Summit

The Australia 2020 Summit was held on 19 and 20 April 2008. The Summit was aimed at harnessing the best ideas for building a modern Australia ready for the challenges of the 21st century. One of the Summit topics was “Health – a long-term national health strategy – including the challenges of preventative health, workforce planning and the ageing population”. AWASH made a submission to the summit.

AWASH Submission to the Australia 2020 Summit

World Action on Salt and Health

woman eating burgerWorld Action on Salt and Health (WASH) is a global group with the mission to improve the health of populations throughout the world by achieving a gradual reduction in salt intake. WASH was established in 2005.

WASH encourages multi-national food companies to reduce salt in their products and works with governments in different countries to highlight the need for population salt reduction strategies.

The overall aim is to bring about a reduction in salt intake throughout the world by reducing the amount of salt in processed foods as well as salt added to cooking, and at the table.

So far WASH has 338 members from over 83 countries and the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Many members are experts in hypertension, while some have other interests and expertise. All have an interest in reducing salt intake in their individual countries.

AWASH is the Australian Division of WASH.