Background: Processed foods are major contributors to population dietary salt intake. Parts of the Australian food industry have started to decrease salt in a number of products. A definitive baseline assessment of current sodium concentrations in foods is key to targeting reformulation strategies and monitoring progress.
Objectives: Our objectives were to systematically collate data on the sodium content of Australian processed food products and compare sodium values against maximum target levels established by the UK Food Standards Agency (UK FSA).
Design: Categories of processed foods that contribute the majority of salt to Australian diets were identified. Food-composition data were sought for all products in these categories, and the sodium content in mg/100 g (or mg/100 mL for liquids) was recorded for each. Mean sodium values were calculated for each grouping and compared with the UK FSA benchmarks.
Results: Sodium data were collected for 7221 products in 10 food groups, 33 food categories, and 90 food subcategories. The food groups that were highest in sodium were sauces and spreads (1283 mg/100 g) and processed meats (846 mg/100 g). Cereal and cereal products (206 mg/100 g) and fruit and vegetables (211 mg/100 g) were the lowest in sodium. Sixty-three percent of food categories had mean sodium concentrations above the UK FSA targets, and most had wide ranges between the most and least salty product.
Conclusions: Many products, particularly breads, processed meats, and sauces, have salt amounts above reasonable benchmarks. The variation in salt concentrations between comparable products suggests that reformulation is highly feasible for many foods.