Children have unique nutritional needs and the development of poor nutrition habits during childhood, such as high salt consumption, is difficult to make up for later in life. The Australian Division of World Action on Salt & Health (AWASH) says that children need very little salt to stay healthy and should eat much less than adults.
"While it is well known that salt increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack in older people, the harmful effects of salt on children are much less well recognised," warns AWASH. "Too much salt in childhood produces a serious rise in blood pressure that progressively worsens with age."
Although the body requires salt in small doses for good health, the amount of salt creeping into foods, especially children's food, is concerning.
Whether salt is added for its flavour or preservative qualities, it's now seasoning much more than just chips, including cereals and even chocolate biscuits.
In conjunction with The George Institute for Global Health, CHOICE reviewed the nutritional content of 235 products aimed at, or likely to be consumed by, children.
- 49 products we classify as high in salt (at least 600mg sodium per 100g)
- 140 with moderate salt levels (121–599mg per 100g)
- only 48 that were low in salt (120mg or less per 100g).
Alarmingly, 72 products, including cereal, sweet and savoury snacks, cheese and pre-packaged dinner products, have more sodium per 100g than Smith's Original Flavour Crisps. Of the products high in sodium, 71% were also high in saturated fat or sugars.