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Or go to my main  page on finding low sodium products

A GUIDE TO SODIUM LABELING

Especially of low sodium products.

FOR CONSUMERS

AUSTRALIAN IMPORTERS, MANUFACTURES and SUPERMARKETS

A printable pdf version is available click here

When searching for  low sodium products I am continuing to come across products where there is something wrong with the sodium labeling. There seems to be far too many mistakes in general for example oils where 100ml is said to contain around 100g of fat(* see note 5). The level of sodium should be of concern to everybody as it is recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Australia that we choose foods low in sodium. Low is defined as products with 120mg/100g or below.  Taste alone is not a reliable guide so the printed sodium level is of vital importance, especially to people with some serious medical conditions like heart failure and Meniere's. If you want to know why salt (sodium) in food is a problem see SALT MATTERS

Products with incorrect sodium labeling hang around for months sometimes years. The sooner we consumers weed them out the better. To those responsible for the labeling of products my advice is to please: Get it right first time. Double check before you put a label on a product that harms people, costs you money and diminishes the reputation of your company. Manufactures-- all of  checks below should be applied to each of your ingredients if you are going to rely on calculations to determine the sodium level of your product. Why not consider getting a final Lab. test of the sodium level. The cost is a paltry $33 inc GST and is a tax deductible expense.




WHERE TO GET INFORMATION

There is plenty of information available on preparing nutrition labels at FOOD STANDARDS AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND. Look for the "Food Standards Code" button.
http://www.foodstandards.gov.au

This document is a mine of information about how to make an approved food label. If the link fails search on Google for "Label Buster".
http://www.health.qld.gov.au/ph/Documents/ehu/28009.pdf

The saltmatters site has explanations of overseas labels that may help if you are translating them.
http://www.saltmatters.org

Use this link to check if a food additive contains sodium.



CHECKING THE SODIUM LINE ON THE NUTRITION PANEL

If there is no nutrition panel there should be a good reason. Check the first two links above.(*see note (5))

If the nutrition panel does not have a sodium line report or fix it.
If the sodium is not shown as mg  report or fix it. Sodium can in addition be shown as an a mmol value. (*see note(1))
If the sodium level is 0.0mg and it is not a pure product report or fix it. Almost everything has some sodium -- sugar and some pure products are the exception.
If it has less sodium than other similar products suspect it. Suspect it more the further away from normal it is.

Labels that show sodium of 120mg/100g or less and
are not marked "No added salt" or "Reduced Salt"
should get extra scrutiny.

If it mentions salt (*see note(2)) in the ingredients list suspect it. Suspect it more the further up the list you find the salt.
If you can taste salt in the product suspect it. Note the in you may be able to taste salt at these levels if it is on the product.
If the word "salt" or "salted"  is part of the product name suspect it.
If baking powder, raising agent (500) or bicarbonate of soda is mentioned suspect it. Suspect it more if it is without a lot of sweet filling or sauce *(see note (3)). There are many additives that contain sodium. See the list here Additives that contain sodium
If you have a laboratory report or a product specification sheet from another company double check the level if any of the above apply. An additional sodium test should cost less than $40.
If you are using overseas information tripple check that they and you have the decimal point in the correct place. *(see note (4))

Notes.
*Note(1)   1 mmol of sodium equals 23mg
*Note(2)  
If you are lucky the ingredients list may give the % of salt. 1% salt = 388mg of sodium per 100g
*Note(3)  Some products such as packet mixes give the sodium of the food as prepared and a dry packet of salty mix may end up as a small amount of salty cake floating on a low salt sauce giving a lower sodium level overall. Do not forget to consider the sodium from any added ingredients that are specified like eggs, milk, water etc.  (A 59g egg has approx. 69mg of sodium)
*Note(4) Many products have had decimal mix ups  like .6g translated to 6mg  instead of 600mg and this occurred here and overseas.
*Note(5) Small packages need not have a nutrition panel but if they are labelled No Added Salt or similar they must show the sodium per 100g.
 
EXAMPLES
  Hover the cursor on the picture to see result.


Ketjap Manis faulty label

Ketjap Manis is a thick soy type sauce.
The ingredients list showed Salt and Sodium benzoate (211).
It tastes strongly of salt.
0 mg is ridiculous.





Spiced Biscuits faulty label


Competitors similar biscuits showed 500mg/100g.





Pickled onion example



These pickled onions tasted salty.







Label showing grams.
Chocolate coated gingerbreads with apricot filling.
This could be a low sodium product but who knows when it is shown as "less than 1g" which contravenes the standard. Sodium should be in mg and
"Less than" is only allowed for levels lower than 5mg.
This is a sticker on the imported product. The original packing did not list sodium.
A test costing under $40 would provide an accurate answer.

Glucose syrup surprisingly has a sodium sodium level of 138mg/100g.


Tomato soup 475mg not 75mg



If the label of this tomato soup was correct it would be the lowest sodium canned soup in Australia.
A serving would give a person only 19% of their daily sodium allowance if they were restricted to 1000mg. The manufacturer knew of the problem by July 2005 but I was still able to buy some the other day (10/4/06).




Canned tomatoes with .1 mg/100g


There is no salt shown and the acidity regulator is citric acid (a non sodium additive) so this may be a low sodium product but the sodium level of 01mg/100g is impossible and casts doubt on the product and the company responsible.






Faulty tomato paste label


With 1% salt this tomato paste should be 388mg plus some for the actual tomato paste. A no added salt tomato paste has about 50mg/100g so you would expect 388 + 50 i.e. 438mg/100g not the 20mg/100g shown.





Balsamic vinegar with overstated sodium in mmol


Not all levels of sodium are understated.
18.2 mmol equates to 418mg of sodium.
Balsamic vinegar is recommended as a flavorsome product for people on low sodium diets.
The importer checked with the manufacturer and the correct value of  33mg/100g will be on new labels.




An overseas label.

If the products only nutrition label is like this report it for not conforming to the Australian standard.

If you have a spare hour you might try to understand it by looking at this link.
http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/foodlab.html

But it is not a good example to try and understand.
How can there be more Total fat for a 2000 calorie diet than for a 2500 one.  
3.5g of fiber is not 9.83% of the 25g shown for a 2000 calorie diet.

It looks like there is no sodium and this may be true as 0% could be shown because of rounding down if the sodium in a serve was less than 5% of the reference diet amount of 2400 i.e.  12mg/100g serve or less. But the ingredients show "Butter Beans, Water, Salt, Food acid (330). Normally just the mention of salt means 100mg/100g or more.

This label had the Australian importers address on it so I presume it was printed specially for Australia. It has obvious mistakes ("Less man" should be "Less than") for a start. With this sort of quality control it is hard to trust the sodium level.





Ginger Kisses showing 6mg





I hope that after reading the above you can determine if these Ginger Kisses are labeled correctly.
I have many many more examples.








I am always on the look out for incorrectly labeled products. If you think you have found one please let me know.
To contact me use the  Mail button on my index page