The humble sausage and bread, the staple snack of Bunnings-goers, could actually be killing us, according to nutritionists.
New research shows Australians wolf down 1.1 billion of them a year, with nearly half our recommended daily salt intake contained in a single sausage and sauce wrapped in white bread.
“This is of huge concern because it is putting our health at risk,” public health nutritionist Clare Farrand said.
Ms Farrand is the lead author of a new report – released today by George Institute for Global Health – which analysed the salt level in more than 1000 processed meats from Australia’s four major supermarkets from 2010 to 2017.
They found that while some meats had reduced in salt levels over that time, there had been no changes in sausages.
“It’s a massive concern that in almost a decade there’s been no change,” Heart Foundation Victoria dietitian Sian Armstrong said.
“The average Aussie eats 44 sausages a year totalling 16 teaspoons of salt, and some sausages are three times saltier than others.”
The findings follow an earlier study this year, which found Australian men were eating twice as much salt as the recommended daily intake, and women weren’t far behind.
The World Health Organisation recommends eating less than 5mg of salt a day, and Ms Armstrong said the health impacts of overindulging were well known.
“Excess salt is directly linked to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, kidney disease and stroke,” Ms Armstrong said.
“One of the best ways to keep your blood pressure down is by eating less salt.”
‘New targets needed’
The George Institute found large differences in the salt levels of supermarket sausages, with the saltiest containing 2.9g per 100g, while the lowest was just 0.8g.
Ms Farrand said this showed producers could make sausages with less salt if they wanted to, and she is urging them to set targets to achieve this.
“We know that setting salt targets and regular monitoring of the food industry towards achieving the targets works,” she said.
“Currently there are no salt targets for sausages.”
She said it wasn’t all bad news, however, with the research showing many processed meats like bacon and sliced meats had reduced their salt levels between 2010-17.
“We know that everybody enjoys a sausage occasionally and we’re not by any means telling people not to eat sausages – we are encouraging people to check the label and try and choose the lower-salt option,” Ms Farrand said.
VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said there were simple steps people could take to make their barbecue offerings a bit healthier.
“We understand that sausages can be a quick barbecue option, but next time why not try filling the hot plate with other healthier options like chicken or veggie skewers,” she said.
“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.”