The Australian federal government’s commitment to spend A$900,000 (US$807,000) over three years to make foods healthier in Australia has been applauded by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) today (13 May).

In this week’s budget, the government committed new funding to the Food and Health Dialogue to develop a rationale for food reformulation - which includes reducing salt, fat and increasing fibre in foods for all Australians.

Under the Dialogue, leading food manufacturers are working to improve the diets and health of Australians as part of the industry, retailer and government partnership.

The government also agreed to conduct research and modelling to set food reformulation targets and identify food categories for reformulation, according to the Taking Preventative Action report, released on 11 May.

“A reduction in salt intake of 25-35% could lead to a 20% or greater reduction in risk of heart attacks and stroke,” said the report, the government’s response to the National Preventative Health Taskforce.

AFGC chief executive Kate Carnell said industry was grateful for the support of Parliamentary Secretary for Health Mark Butler, who chairs the Dialogue, which has already set salt reduction targets for breads and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.

“Many food and grocery manufacturing companies are making strong inroads in salt reduction. For example, Australian researchers recently found that more than 70% of Australia’s ready-to-eat cereals were already below the salt target in this category.”

The Dialogue recently agreed that for ready-to-eat breakfast cereals exceeding 400 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams, Kellogg’s, Sanitarium, Cereal Partners Worldwide, Woolworths, Coles and Aldi will reduce the sodium content of products by 15% over four years.

Leading bread manufacturers George Weston Foods, Goodman Fielder Baking, Allied Mills and Cripps Nubake, as well as Woolworths, Coles and Aldi have agreed to reduce sodium across bread products to 400 milligrams per 100 grams by the end of 2013.

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