Background/Aims: Generic labelled foods are cheaper than equivalent branded products; however, there is a perception that generic foods are of poorer quality than branded, both in terms of nutritional value and taste. We compared the sodium content listed on the food packaging for various generic and branded products.
Methods: Products selected were processed foods most commonly consumed in a Tasmanian population study. Sodium content information was collected for generic foods available in three major supermarkets; Coles, Woolworths and IGA, and the major brand which occupied the greatest shelf space in each store. For each food the difference between the lowest and highest sodium content among brands was calculated as a percentage.
Results: For 21 out of 36 foods assessed, generic products (14 Woolworths, 4 Coles, 3 IGA) had the lowest sodium content. For tinned vegetables, the difference ranged from 43% (beetroot; 210 mg/100g branded vs 300 mg/100g generic) to 2090% (tomato paste; 21 mg/100g generic vs 460 mg/100g branded). For grain foods the differences ranged from 4% (multigrain bread; 386 mg/100g generic vs 400 mg/100g branded) to 29.9x103% (Spaghetti pasta; 0.1 mg/100g vs 30 mg/100g both branded products). The difference in meat/fish products ranged from 44% (frozen meat pie; 335 mg/100g generic vs 481 mg/100g branded) to 149% (tinned tuna; 193 mg/100g generic vs 480 mg/100g branded).
Conclusion: Fifty-nine percent generic products had lower sodium (healthier) than equivalent branded products. This confirms that health labelling must be for individual brands.
Funding source: Tasmanian Medicare Local