Salty Food

Reporter: Helen Wellings

We used to get our fix from the salt shaker, but now it's in virtually the whole gamut of supermarket and takeaway products, often in massive quantities and so hidden, we don't even know it.

"In our society 25% is added from the salt shaker in our diets and 75% comes from our processed foods." Said Susie Burrell

Dr Bruce Neal of the George Institute for Global Health said "High blood pressure is the single greatest cause of premature death and disability in Australia and salt is the biggest reason we have high blood pressure."

We should limit our salt intake to less than 1 teaspoon or 2,000 milligrams per day. But just one tiny serve of certain foods can be equal to or way over that

Fish sauce actually has 1790 mg per serve. Twice as much as expected!

"There's a number of daily foods where it just sneaks in so things like white bread have about 300mg of sodium per serve and it's even worse is the Turkish bread, up to 500mg." said Burrell

Dietitian Susie Burrell says sandwiches and even some salads can have 6,000 mg, which is as much sodium as burgers, pizzas, fries and kebabs. "A large size meat lovers pizza has got about 3 times your entire daily upper recommended limit and that's without the garlic bread and all the other additions like the extra sauces you may be adding, a single sauce container like this will contain between 300 to 500 milligrams so up to a quarter of your daily intake just in a small container." She said

A family of 5 eats in a year on average 36 and a half kilograms a year! But a family should be eating one tenth of that so we're eating 10 TIMES MORE than we should be in everyday foods

"Peanut butter, 2 minute noodles, different sauces and canned vegetable stocks, packaged meats like salami, turley ham that you find it packs are all incredibly high levels of salt that often we just don't realize." Burrell said

Dr Bruce Neal of the George Institute for Global Health said "The problems that eating too much salt causes are high blood pressure which in turn leads to stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, heart failure and probably also some cancers."

Dr Bruce Neal says salt is the silent killer because, unlike fat and sugar, we're so unaware of salt's deadly effects. "A high salt intake can be addictive because the more you have, the more you want." He said

There's mounting pressure on fast food outlets to drastically cut high salt levels and we reveal some chains that ARE doing it.

"We're looking to reduce the total level of sodium in all our product range by more than half over the next six months." Said Marjan

Leading the charge are Dominos pizzas and Ali Baba. One of the chain's kebabs was found to contain nearly as much salt as our upper daily limit. Ali Baba's CEO, Robert Marjan says they're using a natural sea salt with 65% less sodium than table salt. "It's going to apply across the whole food range that we sell. 30 per cent within 2 months, our kebab meats have already developed and the sodium has been reduced by 50 per cent. We're also developing our bread to also reduce the sodium, which gives you a total of 50 per cent reduction in sodium within 6 months, we're currently developing the whole sauce range too." He said

Stefaan Codron, Global Development Chef at Dominos says they've been cutting back on sodium gradually "Some of that went to 15%, then some of it went now to 30% then we keep on going til we don't want to compromise the flavour at all. As long as we can keep going and reduce the salt and fat in our products we will go there."

Hungry Jack's replaced its Aussie burger containing 3200mg of salt with the Country Burger with half of that, 1500mg. Pizza Hut's Super Supreme pizza has 1400mg of salt - but the chain's vowed to cut 1 per cent of sodium from its bases, 9 per cent from toppings, well below the 45% promised last year. But most takeaways, especially Asian and Thai are full of salt.

"Pad Thai, again a lot of extra sauces added - that would contain about 2000mg of sodium compared to a plainer, kind of chicken stir fry which will have about half that amount. Asian takeaway notorious because of things like fish sauce, hoisin sauce, which have got enormous amounts of sodium so something like a chow mein will contain 2 to 3000 mg." said Burrell

And Indian is high "Curry or a butter chicken, again 1000-1500mg per serve and that's without the naan bread, the little extras again things like the tandoori stick, about 500-600mg of salt in one single skewer." She said

Vegetable stock has 774 milligrams. Cornflakes have 600 mg of salt per serve and fried rice has around 1230 "The good news is that the fast food chains are giving us some options that are lower. So, for example if you're looking at fried chicken, you can now get a wrap that has about 500mg compared to the more traditional meals which would have 1000-2000. So they are better options, so it really is worth seeking out those labels and in store looking for the lowest salt products that you can find." Concluded Burrell



* Susie Burrell, Dietitian and Food Psychologist.

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* Dominos Pizza