21 July 2024

Kiwis don’t understand risk of high consumption of salt, reveals survey

Supermarket aisles continue to be awash with salt and Kiwi consumers do not fully understand the risks of eating too much salt in their diet, a survey reveals. 

The survey, commissioned by the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand, found 41% of Kiwis do not understand that eating too much salt can lead to serious, long-term health conditions like stroke and heart attack .

This is concerning in Aotearoa, where two thirds of us consume roughly twice our recommended daily amount of salt and the number of people experiencing stroke is increasing rapidly and at younger ages.

The survey, carried out by Kantar, canvassed consumer knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours towards salt consumption.

While most surveyed (66%) were not worried about their salt consumption, with fat and sugar being of much greater concern, the survey found the link between salt, high blood pressure and stroke risk was poorly understood across the board.

Despite this, most respondents wanted to see clearer labelling on food (88%) and targets for companies to reduce the amount of salt in their products (69%).

Reduce salt in diet
High intake of salt is a major concern, says Stroke Foundation

Stroke Foundation CEO Jo Lambert says, “A diet that is high in salt increases the risk of high blood pressure, the number one cause of stroke, which is Aotearoa leading cause of serious adult disability.

“Over 9,500 strokes are experienced in Aotearoa New Zealand every year. 75% of strokes are preventable, so we must take all possible measures to improve our health and prevent strokes from happening in the first place. One of the quickest and most effective ways of doing this is by simply reducing the salt we consume.”

Another report by Auckland University Master’s student Neela Bhana found there was considerable room to strengthen public understanding about dietary recommendations for salt, the relationship between salt and sodium, and the health implications of consuming too much sodium.

But the question being raised by the Foundation is how can we cut back on our salt when everything we buy is full of it? From sliced bread to biscuits, street food to ‘healthy’ salads, everything has added salt.

In New Zealand, only 13% of the salt we consume is added during cooking or at the table, with the remainder coming from processed foods and takeaways, according to the Foundation.

While you can reduce your salt consumption by adding less salt to the food you prepare at home, individual action is not enough, says the Foundation.

Therefore, the Stroke Foundation is calling on Government to introduce salt reduction targets for a wide range of processed foods – our main source of sodium, and a mandatory Health Star Rating on packaged food to make it easier for consumers to make healthy choices.

A recent video – produced by Consumer NZ and the Stroke Foundation of NZ, highlighting the dangerously high levels of sodium in ultra-processed foods can be watched here: https://www.facebook.com/StrokeFoundationNZ/videos/732195585068063

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