Food Industry Salt Reduction Crucial for Public Health

In Australia, voluntary efforts beneficial, but regulated changes could increase success

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Although voluntary efforts by the Australian food industry to reduce sodium in processed foods seem to be paying off, governmental regulation of these efforts may have a 20-fold greater impact, according to research published online Nov. 1 in Heart.

Using proportional multistate life-table modeling of cardiovascular disease and health sector cost outcomes over the lifetime of the Australian population in 2003, Linda J. Cobiac, M.D., of the University of Queensland in Herston, Australia, and colleagues evaluated the population health benefits and cost-effectiveness of dietary salt-reduction interventions used in Australia.

Reductions in the salt content of processed food (mandatory and voluntary) were found to be cost-saving interventions under all modeled scenarios of discounting, costing, and cardiovascular disease risk reversal. Individually-targeted dietary advice was not cost-effective in any of the modeled scenarios, even when targeted to those at high risk of hypertension. The models also showed that population health benefits could be 20 times higher than 2003 levels if some aspects of voluntary food industry salt reduction were made mandatory and government regulated.

"Food manufacturers have a responsibility to make money for their shareholders, but they also have a responsibility to society. If corporate responsibility fails, maybe there is an ethical justification for government to step in and legislate," the authors write.

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