Soup, cheese and cereal among worst offenders on salt says study

Many popular foods still contain high levels of salt, with tinned tomato soup, cheddar cheese, chilled ready meals and cornflakes among the worst offenders, according to research by a health campaign group, reports The Guardian.

Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) said huge progress made prior to 2010 under a national salt-reduction programme overseen by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) had been sacrificed under a voluntary system in which retailers and manufacturers police themselves.

Under the so-called responsibility deal, a complex set of targets are in place to be met by December 2017.

Cash said high levels of salt remained a major contributor to raised blood pressure, a leading cause of death and disability.

The group urged David Cameron to set up an independent agency for nutrition to rescue the previous reduction programme and introduce regulated targets for salt, saturated fat and sugar.

In a survey of popular supermarket foods, Cash found that nearly half (47 per cent) of soups contained at least the same amount of salt per serving as two slices of Domino’s cheese and tomato pizza.

The saltiest soup culprit was Baxters vegetarian Italian tomato and basil with 3.5g salt per 400g serving – more than a McDonald’s Big Mac and large fries.
According to NHS guidelines , adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day – the equivalent of a teaspoon.

Yet consumption can be difficult to monitor as three-quarters of the salt eaten is in common foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals.

The majority (95 per cent) of cheese products surveyed by Cash were found to contain more salt per serving than a packet of ready-salted crisps.

Its analysis of the salt content of 201 blocks of cheese found that some products had more salt than in 2012, such as Sainsbury’s Lighter mature British cheese, which had increased its salt content by 16 per cent, from 1.7g/100g to 1.98g/100g.

Luxury ready meals were also singled out for excessive salt, with Marks & Spencer’s Gastropub cottage pie and the Co-operative’s Truly Irresistible cottage pie both loaded with 2.9g of salt per 400g serving.

Cash said this was close to the amount of salt in two Pot Noodle packs (3g).

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Cash, said: “Under the FSA and Cash, the UK led the world in salt reduction.

“It is a tragedy for public health that the coalition government in 2010 seized responsibility for nutrition from the FSA to the Department of Health where they made the food industry responsible for policing themselves.

“Unsurprisingly, this has failed and has resulted in many thousands of unnecessary deaths from strokes and heart disease. It’s imperative that responsibility for nutrition be handed back to an independent agency.”