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Estimating the potential impact of Australia’s reformulation programme on households’ sodium purchases
  1. Daisy Coyle1,
  2. Maria Shahid1,
  3. Elizabeth Dunford1,2,
  4. Cliona Ni Mhurchu1,3,
  5. Sarah Mckee4,
  6. Myla Santos4,
  7. Barry Popkin2,
  8. Kathy Trieu1,
  9. Matti Marklund1,5,
  10. Bruce Neal1,6 and
  11. Jason Wu1
  1. 1Faculty of Medicine, The George Institute for Global Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3National Institute for Health Innovation, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  4. 4Client Services, The Nielsen Company Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  5. 5Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  6. 6Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Daisy Coyle, The George Institute for Global Health, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia; dcoyle{at}


Background On average, Australian adults consume 3500 mg sodium per day, almost twice the recommended maximum level of intake. The Australian government through the Healthy Food Partnership initiative has developed a voluntary reformulation programme with sodium targets for 27 food categories. We estimated the potential impact of this programme on household sodium purchases (mg/day per capita) and examined potential differences by income level. We also modelled and compared the effects of applying the existing UK reformulation programme targets in Australia.

Methods This study used 1 year of grocery purchase data (2018) from a nationally representative consumer panel of Australian households (Nielsen Homescan) that was linked with a packaged food and beverage database (FoodSwitch) that contains product-specific sodium information. Potential reductions in per capita sodium purchases were calculated and differences across income level were assessed by analysis of variance. All analyses were modelled to the Australian population in 2018.

Results A total of 7188 households were included in the analyses. The Healthy Food Partnership targets covered 4307/26 728 (16.1%) unique products, which represented 22.3% of all packaged foods purchased by Australian households in 2018. Under the scenario that food manufacturers complied completely with the targets, sodium purchases will be reduced by 50 mg/day per capita, equivalent to 3.5% of sodium currently purchased from packaged foods. Reductions will be greater in low-income households compared with high-income households (mean difference −7 mg/day, 95% CI −4 to −11 mg/day, p<0.001). If Australia had adopted the UK sodium targets, this would have covered 9927 unique products, resulting in a reduction in per capita sodium purchases by 110 mg/day.

Conclusion The Healthy Food Partnership reformulation programme is estimated to result in a very small reduction to sodium purchases. There are opportunities to improve the programme considerably through greater coverage and more stringent targets.

  • blood pressure lowering
  • nutrition assessment

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  • Contributors DC, MS, BN, KT and JW designed the research. DC and JW conducted research. SM and MS provided essential databases. MS and DC analysed data. DC and JW wrote paper. DC had primary responsibility for final content. All authors provided critical feedback on the manuscript and read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by an NHMRC Partnership Project (APP1167745) and an NHMRC Centres of Research Excellence (CRE) grant (APP1117300).

  • Disclaimer The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the official views of the NHMRC.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval This project was approved by the University of New South Wales Human Research Ethics Committee (approval number HC180965). All participants originally gave informed consent to participate in the Nielsen Homescan Panel including consent for their data to be used for future research purposes.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement The data that support the findings of this study are available from Nielsen and FoodSwitch, but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study, and so are not publicly available.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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