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Who Put The Salt In My Cornflakes?

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Think of a deadly white chemical and salt would probably not feature in your top five. Time to think again! Salt in processed food is a major contributor to the world's biggest killer - cardio vascular disease, which includes strokes and heart attacks. International research by WASH shows salt levels can be reduced by global brands when they decide to, as there is considerable difference between similar products sold in New Zealand compared to the rest of the world.

For instance, WASH's survey of 260 food products available round the world showed that a KFC Original Fillet Burger in New Zealand contains 3.7g of salt per serving compared to 2.4g of salt in the same product in Australia. Europe consumers can eat the same product with only 1.3g of salt per 100g. This shows New Zealand food producers can do much more to improve the health of their products, according to Mark Vivian, NZ Stroke Foundation CEO.

"It's clear from WASH's survey that some countries can provide the same product as New Zealand, but with lower salt content, " said Mr Vivian. "Surely we can do better than this!"

The World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) surveyed over 260 food products available around the world from food manufacturers such as KFC, McDonalds, Kellogg's, Nestle, Burger King and Subway. Not one product surveyed had the same salt content around the world and some displayed huge differences in salt content from one country to another.

"The fact that some companies create, distribute and market products with too much salt raises serious ethical concerns," said Mr Vivian. "It is very hypocritical for manufacturers to claim their products are healthy whilst marketing products which contribute to cardiovascular fatalities.

"A gradual reduction in salt can easily be done across all products. A percentage at a time and the change is not noticeable to consumers, but will make a significant impact on blood pressure in this country. We strongly urge all food manufacturers to make reductions not just in some product lines, but across the board."

While some New Zealand food manufacturers are making some progress on salt volumes, there's still a long way to go to create healthy levels of salt content.

For instance, the Stroke Foundation of NZ flagged up the salt levels of numerous brands in NZ in 2007. There seems to have been little progress since then. For instance, research by WASH shows Kellogg's Cornflakes in New Zealand has lower salt levels than the Middle East, but the New Zealand product still has approximately 3 teaspoons of salt in a pack. And this has not changed in three years.

Researchers confirm that salt content in New Zealand processed food is still way too high. New Zealanders consume an average 9grams of salt a day, but the World Health Organisation recommends intake of between 3g to 6g a day depending on body mass. This means most New Zealanders need to reduce their salt intake by 50 per cent, and most of this can be achieved by reduction of salt content in processed food.

The link between salt and blood pressure (hypertension)? The sodium in salt raises the blood pressure, and raised blood pressure (hypertension) is the greatest preventable risk factor for stroke and heart attack. Exactly how sodium contributes to a rise in blood pressure is not clear. The kidney seems unable to cope with increased levels of sodium so leaves it in the blood stream where it can cause havoc./.

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