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Less salt going into packaged food

Manufacturers of packaged food sold in New Zealand are reducing the amount of salt in their products, according to newly published research. But New Zealanders' salt intake remains well above the World Health Organisation (WHO) target.

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The joint research by the University of Auckland’s National Institute for Health Innovation and the Heart Foundation looked at how sodium levels in processed foods had changed between 2003 and 2013.

The sodium content in the 9 food groups that had been analysed in 2003 and then 2013 had fallen by 12 percent, with breakfast cereals having the biggest reduction (28 percent). A focus on reducing salt in children’s cereals was behind the big improvement for breakfast cereals.

Other products that now have less salt include canned spaghetti (15 percent) and bread (14 percent).

However, some products bucked the trend and now have a higher overall salt content. They included canned corned beef (up 6 percent) and cheese products (up 2 percent). Margarines had less salt overall but butter increased by 21 percent.

The study’s co-author Helen Eyles, from the University of Auckland’s National Institute for Health Innovation, called for improved labelling and a public awareness campaign highlighting salt’s health impacts.

“Limiting salt consumption is important because a high intake can cause high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease,” Dr Eyles said.

New Zealand has committed to reduce its salt intake by 30 percent by 2025 as part of a United Nations agreement. New Zealanders currently have a salt intake of 9g/day, short of the WHO’s target of 5g/day by 2025.

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