Sydney Law Review   |  June 9, 2014

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Excess salt consumption represents a significant threat to health, in light of the established link between salt intake, blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Salt reduction programs could significantly reduce death and disability by reducing average blood pressure across the population. In 2009, the Australian Department of Health established the Food and Health Dialogue, which uses salt reduction targets to guide voluntary product reformulation by the food industry. However, the Dialogue lacks many of the features of the United Kingdom’s more successful program, and research suggests that it has failed to significantly improve the quality of the Australian food supply.This article presents a new strategy for reducing population salt intake in Australia. Acknowledging the political obstacles to the imposition of mandatory standards for salt reduction, we draw on the regulatory studies literature to develop a public health governance model that incorporates a broader range of regulatory techniques. We apply this model to the challenge of reducing population salt intake by, for example, setting more comprehensive targets and performance indicators, enhancing accountability and increasing industry participation. We recommend a ‘responsive’ regulatory approach where the food industry’s failure to meet salt reduction targets triggers progressively more stringent forms of regulation. Our strategy rests on the selective introduction of ‘legislative scaffolds’ to create a more demanding salt reduction program while seeking to maximise industry cooperation and capacity for innovation.

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