Bacon and eggs for breakfast, that luxury of a lazy weekend, may lose some of its salty tang under a scheme to prevent thousands of heart attacks and strokes.

The Heart Foundation is negotiating with food manufacturers, including the makers of bacon, ham and sausages, to encourage them to reduce the salt they add to products.

This is in line with recommendations by an influential British health agency and welcomed by New Zealand public health experts. The UK’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which usually evaluates new drugs for taxpayer funding, called for salt intake to be slashed to a maximum of 6g a day by 2015 and 3g by 2025. It says this can be achieved in staged reductions that nobody’s tastebuds will notice.

New Zealanders swallow about 9g of salt a day; the recommended maximum here is already 6g, although 4g is the suggested long-term goal. Excess intake of salt – of which sodium is the harmful part – leads to increased blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

It has been estimated that reducing sodium intake by 25 per cent would prevent nearly 1000 deaths a year from heart attack or stroke. Seventy-five per cent of the sodium we eat comes from manufactured and pre-prepared foods, 15 per cent we add at home, and 10 per cent occurs naturally in food.

Our biggest source of salt in manufactured food is bread, followed by processed meats. In a project started by the Heart Foundation in 2007, bakers and supermarkets have reduced sodium to a maximum of 450mg for every 100g of bread – an average cut of 15 per cent.

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