Salty sausages raise health concerns over Aussie BBQs

New research has revealed that Australians are wolfing down 1.1 billion sausages each year, but some snags have been found to contain nearly half the recommended daily intake of salt.

The George Institute for Global Health, VicHealth and the Heart Foundation, analysed the salt levels in more than 1,000 processed meats available to buy from Australia’s major supermarkets between 2010 and 2017.

The findings show that while some meats have reduced salt content compared to previous years, there has been no change when it comes to sausages.

On average, one sausage contains more than a quarter (28%) of our recommended maximum daily salt intake. And the average snag in white bread with tomato sauce contains a whopping 2.35 grams of salt – nearly half of the recommended intake, the researchers said.

Just two Coles thin pork BBQ sausages, which the study identified as containing the most salt of those assessed, equates to 80% of our entire recommended daily salt intake, the research found. And that’s before you’ve added any sauce or bread!

The Coles sausages (2.9g of salt per 100g) had around three times more salt than Cleaver organic beef sausages – the lowest salt sausages included in the study (0.95g of salt per 100g).

While there was a 17% reduction in the salt content of bacon from 2010 to 2017 and an 18% reduction in the salt content of sliced meats between 2010 and 2015, there was no reduction in the salt content of sausages.

Heart Foundation Victoria Dietitian, Sian Armstrong, said that the reduced salt levels in other meats is proof that manufactures can make their sausages less salty.

“It’s a massive concern that in almost a decade there’s been no change to the salt levels in sausages. And some sausages are three times saltier than others. We need targets to drive manufacturers to make their sausages less salty and improve the health of the population,” Ms Armstrong said.

“Excess salt is directly linked to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, kidney disease and stroke. One of the best ways to keep your blood pressure down is by eating less salt.”

Have more veggies instead

With no salt targets for sausages currently available, consumers are being encouraged to check the labels and to try choosing lower-salt options. The George Institute’s Public Health Nutritionist and the report’s lead author, Clare Farrand, said the findings were worrying considering how popular sausages are for many families.

“We know that setting salt targets and regular monitoring of the food industry towards achieving the targets works,” she said. “We understand that sausages can be a quick BBQ option, but next time why not try filling the hot plate with other healthier options like chicken or veggie skewers. Vegetables like mushrooms, onions, corn on the cob and eggplant work well too, and try to make sure you serve up some tasty salads to have on the side.

“We want to see manufacturers committing to reformulating their processed meats to have less salt – it can be done.”

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