IN A bid to battle Australia's number one killer, heart disease, health experts are calling for a government-ordered reduction in salt levels in processed foods.
Processed foods, including chips, cereals, soups and sauces, account for 75% of all food sold in Australia but continue to contribute to high blood pressure and cholesterol.
The Heart Foundation is calling on the Federal Government to enforce mandatory nutrition targets in the food industry - including reducing salt levels - to make processed foods healthier.
The proposal would mean processed food manufacturers reduce salt, saturated fat and trans fats in their products in favour of increasing healthy nutrients like fibre, wholegrain, fruit and vegetables.
According to the foundation's Effectiveness of Food Reformulation as a Strategy to Improve Population Health report, removing 15-25% of salt in Australia's processed foods over a decade could avert up to 9700 heart attacks annually.
Heart Foundation chief executive Dr Lyn Roberts said setting a maximum level of unhealthy ingredients allowed in processed foods would be more effective than previous attempts to curb the problem.
"Government-enforced mandatory targets for all processed food products would be far more transparent and effective at improving health than the voluntary opt-in approach we've seen to date," she said.
"Setting maximum levels of unhealthy ingredients in all processed foods will ensure food manufacturers make their products healthier, making a huge difference to our nation's health."
Dr Roberts pointed to the UK for an example.
"For those who are resisting the changes, we only need to look to the UK to see how in 10 years they successfully reduced salt in the average adults' diet by 1.5 grams," she said.
However, the foundation argues the nutrition targets must be set on a case by case basis.
According to the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health, Australian men consume 10 grams of salt per day while women consume seven grams.
The Heart Foundation recommends Australians reduce their salt intake to less than 6 grams per day.