How Australia can shake its salt habit and save lives

A new report by the Grattan Institute, a leading Australian think tank, has revealed that Australians are consuming too much salt, putting their health and lives at risk. The report, titled “Sneaky salt: How Australia can shake its salt habit”, urges the government to set mandatory limits on the amount of salt in various food items, as well as to implement other policies to reduce salt intake in the population.

According to the report, Australians eat almost 10 grams of salt per day, which is twice the recommended limit by the World Health Organization (WHO). This high level of salt intake is mainly due to the external factors, such as the food manufacturing processes, that account for three-quarters of the nation’s salt intake. The report estimates that around 2,500 Australians die every year from illnesses related to high salt consumption, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. By reducing salt intake to the WHO’s recommended level of 5 grams per day, the report projects that Australia could gain an aggregate of 36,000 additional years of life over two decades, preventing 6,000 hospital visits and 300 deaths annually.

How Australia can shake its salt habit and save lives
How Australia can shake its salt habit and save lives

The need for mandatory salt limits and other policies

The report argues that individual dietary choices are not solely responsible for the high salt intake levels in Australia, and that the government has a greater role to play in reducing salt in the food supply. The report advocates for mandatory salt limits in various food items, extending beyond the voluntary limits on bread and sausages set in 2009, which were deemed inadequate in design and implementation. The report also suggests other strategies to reduce salt intake, such as:

  • Improving food labelling to make it easier for consumers to identify high-salt foods and compare products
  • Educating consumers about the health risks of excessive salt consumption and how to reduce it
  • Supporting food manufacturers and retailers to reformulate their products and offer lower-salt options
  • Monitoring and evaluating the progress and impact of salt reduction policies

The report cites examples from other countries, such as the UK, Canada, and Finland, where salt reduction initiatives have been more successful and have led to significant improvements in health outcomes.

The benefits of shaking the salt habit

The report claims that reducing salt intake in Australia would not only save lives and improve health, but also generate economic benefits. The report estimates that reducing salt intake to the WHO’s recommended level would save $1.4 billion over two decades in health care costs and productivity losses. The report also argues that reducing salt intake would have minimal impact on consumer satisfaction and food industry profits, as consumers would adapt their taste preferences over time and food manufacturers would face lower costs of production.

The report concludes that shaking the salt habit is a “no-brainer” for Australia, as it would bring substantial health and economic benefits for the nation. The report calls on the government to take action and implement mandatory salt limits and other policies to reduce salt intake in the population.

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