November 2, 2010

Study Calls For Government Regulation Of Salt

Forcing food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt used in their products could be vastly more effective than the voluntary limits currently used in the industry, a team of Australian researchers claims in a new study.

The experts, led by Linda Cobiac of the University of Queensland's School of Population Health, focused much of their research on 'Tick'--an Australian program that allows food producers to reduce salt and purchase a special endorsement logo for use on their packaging, thus promoting their goods as healthier and theoretically increasing sales.

According to Cobiac and her colleagues, who published their findings in the British Medical Journal (BMJ)-affiliated publication Heart, simply telling people to reduce their salt intake only reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart-related illnesses by less than one-half percent. Under programs such as Tick, that number increases to nearly 1%.

However, in a press release, the BMJ reports that the study authors discovered that "the health benefits across the population could be 20 times greater if the government imposed mandatory limits"¦ amounting to a reduction of 18% in ill health from cardiovascular disease."

Reuters reports that the study also found that 94% of Australian men and 64% of women in the country eat more salt than is recommended. The news agency also cites an unnamed study which reported that 90% of all Americans consume too much salt as well.

"When it's so excessive, it makes sense for the government to step in to take action," Cobiac told Reuters. "It's cost saving to the government in the longer term to reduce salt content in food."

In an interview with BBC News, British Heart Foundation senior dietician Victoria Taylor added, "We're making progress without the need for compulsory limits and as a result we've seen a reduction in salt intake"¦ But as three quarters of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, we need to build on this work and watch carefully to make sure the food industry doesn't slip back into old habits."


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