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  • Some tomato-based products contain high levels of salt

    Author: AAP

Public health experts are calling for greater awareness around the amount of salt "hidden" in popular cooking sauces.

Australians are being urged to check the salt content of their family's favourite cooking sauces, with new analysis revealing some tomato-based products contain 90 times more salt than others.

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A study by The George Institute for Global Health in collaboration with VicHealth and the Heart Foundation has uncovered the "hidden" salt content of more than 2000 cooking sauce products, sold in the four major supermarkets.

It found salt intake was highest in powdered sauces that are used commonly for casseroles, curries and pasta bakes.

Some contained almost half a family's recommended daily salt intake in one serve alone, according to the study.


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McCormick Garlic & Rosemary Lamb Shanks was the saltiest with 22.38 grams of salt per 100 grams.

Among the stable shelf sauces, Asian black bean sauces topped the list with 2.37 grams of salt per 100g.

A huge variation in salt content was also found among tomato-based pasta sauces, ranging from 0.02g to 1.88g salt per 100g.

Barilla Olive pasta sauce stood out for its high content (1.88 salt/100g), 90 times saltier than Tenuta Fragassi Sugo Pronto Napoletana Neopolitan Style Pasta Sauce (0.02g salt/100g).

Nutritionist Clare Farrand - who led the investigation - says cooking sauces are tipping peoples' salt intake over the edge at great risk to their health.

"A fresh pasta sauce from the supermarket refrigerator contains almost a third of a daily salt intake in the sauce alone - add cheese and you could be blowing the family's salt intake to well over the maximum daily limit," said Ms Farrand.

"We would encourage consumers when they are looking at the label to look for products that are as close to low salt as possible," she advised.

There is also a call for all manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods particularly in those people eat the most, such as cooking sauces.

"What the study actually shows us is that manufacturers are able to make these products with much less salt," said Ms Farrand.

The World Health Organisation recommends people consume no more than 5mg of salt per day.

Data from the Australian Health Survey shows Australians are currently consuming nearly double that.

Heart Foundation Victoria CEO Kellie-Ann Jolly says the link between a high salt diet and cardiovascular disease is clear cut and the results of this research are concerning.

"Excessive salt intake is directly linked to blood pressure, so if you are eating high amounts of salt through your diet you are more likely to have high blood pressure which increases your risk of particularly stroke, heart and kidney disease," Ms Jolly told AAP.

While cooking sauces are convenient for busy families, Ms Jolly says fresh is always best.

"You can't just say pasta sauces are going to raise your blood pressure but it's just the fact that overtime we are consuming these foods everyday and often at every meal, so it is going to have an impact on our health," said Ms Jolly.


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