Changes in the sodium content of bread in Australia and New Zealand between 2007 and 2010: implications for policy

Elizabeth K Dunford, Helen Eyles, Cliona Ni Mhurchu, Jacqui L Webster and Bruce C Neal
Med J Aust 2011; 195 (6): 346-349. || doi: 10.5694/mja11.10673


Objective: To define the effectiveness of recent efforts by the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health, and the Heart Foundation in New Zealand to reduce sodium levels in breads in Australia and New Zealand.

Design and setting: Data on the sodium contents of packaged sliced bread products sold in Australian and New Zealand supermarkets were collected from the product labels of 157 breads in 2007 and 167 breads in 2010, and were compared overall, by bread type, by manufacturer, and between nations.

Main outcome measures: Mean sodium values in bread and proportions of breads meeting the targets of 400 mg/100 g in Australia and 450 mg/100 g in New Zealand.

Results: Overall mean sodium content in bread in Australia was 434 mg/100 g in 2007 and 435 mg/100 g in 2010; corresponding values for New Zealand were 469 mg/100 g and 439 mg/100 g. The proportion of Australian breads meeting the national target increased from 29% in 2007 to 50% in 2010; the proportion of New Zealand breads meeting the national target increased from 49% in 2007 to 90% in 2010. There were clear differences between the results achieved by different companies.

Conclusions: Voluntary efforts by non-governmental organisations have had some impact on sodium levels in bread, particularly in New Zealand. However, substantial room for further improvement remains. If additional reductions are not achieved under the current voluntary arrangements, legislated approaches may be required.

  • Elizabeth K Dunford1
  • Helen Eyles2
  • Cliona Ni Mhurchu2
  • Jacqui L Webster1
  • Bruce C Neal1

  • 1 The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.


Elizabeth Dunford is supported by a Sydney Medical School Foundation scholarship; Cliona Ni Mhurchu holds the Heart Foundation of New Zealand Senior Fellowship (Grant 1380). Bruce Neal is supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship. Main project funding was provided by a National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Partnership Grant with partner support from the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, New South Wales Health and the New South Wales Food Authority.

Competing interests:

Jacqui Webster is the Senior Project Manager, Elizabeth Dunford is the Research Officer and Bruce Neal is the Chairman of the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health. Jacqui Webster was previously responsible for implementing the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency salt reduction strategy, including the initial consultation on salt targets.


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