Journal article

Changes in the sodium content of leading Australian fast-food products between 2009 and 2012

7 Apr 2014

Fast foods have become lower in salt at the rate of about two to three percent per year, according to this four-year study of six Australian fast food chains.

Introduction: The burden of ill health attributable to obesity, type 2 diabetes and other diet-related health risks is increasing in both developed and developing countries. Fast foods, which are convenient, quick and cheap, are generally nutrient-poor and eaten in large portions that can contribute significantly to energy, fat, sugar and sodium intake. Links between fast-food consumption and a range of chronic diseases have been made, with excess dietary sodium causing high blood pressure and a range of vascular diseases. Although there is no current definitive estimate of population dietary salt intake in Australia, it is widely accepted that average consumption is well above the government’s suggested dietary target of 4 g/day. About three-quarters of salt in the diet comes from processed and restaurant foods,with fast foods known to be a significant contributor in Western populations.

In Australia, expenditure on fast foods has risen substantially over recent years and there is evidence that children who are exposed to unhealthy dietary patterns carry these behaviours into adulthood.The Australian Government’s 2009 National Preventative Health Strategy - the roadmap for action identified the need to improve the healthiness of fast foods in Australia, and the Food and Health Dialogue has commenced a food reformulation program. Neither, however, has set targets for fast foods, although some companies and non-government organisations have been working to lower salt levels in these products.These efforts have been informed by data that systematically describe the salt levels in Australian fast foods and how they compare with those in other countries. The primary objective of this study was to determine whether there have been any changes in the sodium content of leading Australian fast-food products in the 4 years from 2009 to 2012.

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