The coalition Government says it has “no plans” to regulate salt content in food — despite a fresh plea today from stroke survivors.

This morning, the Stroke Foundation launched a campaign calling for mandatory standards to limit the amount of salt in the products we eat, describing it as a “hidden killer”.

But by 3pm, that had been rejected by Minister of Food Safety Andrew Hoggard.

Instead, he released a statement saying he wanted New Zealanders to “have the information they need” to make healthier choices.

The Stroke Foundation believes many Kiwis have no idea how much salt they’re eating, saying it’s often hidden in everyday packaged foods.

Excess salt can raise blood pressure, which can in turn lead to a brain attack – or stroke.

The World Health Organisation recommended people eat no more than five grams a day, which roughly equates to a single teaspoon.

The Stroke Foundation’s fundraising and marketing general manager Jess Winchester said she accidentally hit that limit recently with a single cup of packet soup.

“It was lovely on a cold day but, when I checked the back of the packet, that was my entire daily recommended daily amount of salt,” she said.

Jess Winchester.

Winchester believed many New Zealanders would be doing the same thing without realising it.

“The biggest problem is we don’t know it’s there and we’re eating it unwittingly,” she said.

Researchers recently measured almost 7000 products on New Zealand supermarket shelves to assess the amount of salt in each product.

They found almost two thirds exceeded benchmarks set by the World Health Organisation.

“It’s pies, it’s pastries, it’s dessert, it’s sausage rolls. it’s even the plant-based food that we use because we’re trying to eat less meat, so there’s hidden salt in so many different foods,” Winchester said.

Stroke was the leading cause of disability in New Zealand with more than 9500 suffered every year.

‘My life will never be the same again’

Aucklander Jamie Summers is one of the many survivors — he suffered a stroke in 2019, at the age of 39.

“I was so lucky, my wife saved my life that day. I probably thought I was invincible, and I learnt the hard way and my life will never ever be the same again,” he said.

Aucklander Jamie Summers had a stroke at 39.

The stroke affected his left side and vision, and he had to learn to walk again.

The condition can be brought on by a range of different issues and, while Summers can never be sure of exactly what caused it, he admits his diet wasn’t the best.

“I’ve never, prior to my stroke, thought too much about what I eat. Especially working in construction, it’s very easy to have a diet of gas station pies and just quick and easy food and not to think about the healthy options,” he said.

Now largely recovered, he agreed that reducing salt in processed food would help.

“I have definitely become a lot more cautious in the food I eat,” he said.

The Stroke Foundation continues to call for better labelling of food to make the risk clearer, saying many products do not display the Health Star rating.

However, it seems part of their campaign – the call for mandatory standards – has hit a brick wall on day one.

The Government rejecting that plea, in favour of allowing choice.