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The ugly truth about salty snacks

NEW research reveals 50 percent of snack foods are not meeting voluntary salt targets.

Manufacturers and the government must step up, says the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand.

The more salt Kiwis eat, the greater the risk of high blood pressure and having a stroke. Potato chips and savoury snacks are significant culprits, says new research commissioned by the stroke foundation.

Foundation chief executive Jo Lambert says the government and food manufacturers need to do more to slash the salt in processed foods and reduce the risk of stroke.

“Reducing salt will help combat the 75 percent of strokes that are preventable,” said Ms Lambert.

“It's disheartening to find only half the foods tested in our study met voluntary targets for salt content. Some savoury snacks contained over half a teaspoon of salt per serve, which is more than 50 percent of someone's recommended maximum daily intake.

“Food manufacturers must consider the health of their customers, and the Government must think more about stroke prevention through salt targets, rather than the public health system being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.”

Analysis of 888 potato chips and savoury snacks sold in New Zealand between 2013 – 2019, found huge variation with some snacks containing 360 times more salt than similar products.

“This variation highlights the feasibility of reducing the amount of salt in snack foods.

“Some manufacturers have made real progress to reduce salt in their products, but this isn't happening across the board.

“The government needs to get more hands-on and set targets for food reformulation, that all manufacturers are strongly encouraged or required to reach,” said Ms Lambert.

Each year, approximately 9500 New Zealanders experience a stroke, costing the New Zealand economy $1.1 billion.

Anyone who cuts down their salt consumption will help reduce their risk of stroke, while also reducing the huge burden on the health sector and economy.

“This research shows that increasing our efforts to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods can improve everyone's health,” said Ms Lambert.

“While we wait for the Government to take action on processed food manufacturers, consumers are encouraged to eat more whole foods and vegetables instead of salty crisps and savoury snacks.

“If they do treat themselves, we encourage them all to look for low salt options which is less than 520mg of sodium per 100g of food.”