Consensus Action on Salt and Health complains to Advertising Standards Authority about Walkers crisps promotion

10 April 2006

Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) has today submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority concerning Walkers current promotion of its crisps.

The complaint, which focuses on a door-drop leaflet, falls into four main areas:

1. The promotional leaflet implies that all Walkers crisps, except for Salt and Vinegar and Pickled Onion flavours, contain 8% or less of the 6g Guideline Daily Amount (GDA) of salt per pack.  In fact, this is true for less than a quarter of Walkers branded products, but the leaflet does not specify which products it is referring to [1].

2. The leaflet gives no specific information on the lower GDAs of salt for children under 11 [2], thus implying that the product provides 8% or less of the GDA for both children and adults.  In fact, a standard 34.5g bag of Walkers crisps contains 25% of the GDA of salt for a three year old.  CASH feels that to omit to mention anything about the GDA for children in a leaflet promoting a product consumed by children is irresponsible and misleading.

3. CASH is particularly concerned about the comparison of a bag of crisps with a slice of bread. The implication is that bread is a low-salt product, whereas most bread in the UK is classed as ‘high in salt’ according to the Food Standards Agency definition (containing 1.25g of salt or more per 100g).  Thus one high-salt food is being compared to another high-salt food.

4. Also, much standard sliced white bread in the UK contains 0.4g of salt or less per slice [3].  Thus it is incorrect to say that the salt content of a bag of crisps containing 0.5g of salt per pack is ‘the same as a slice of bread’.

“Walkers has made some small reductions in the amount of salt in some of its products, but it is clearly implying in this door-drop leaflet that ‘every crisp’ is ‘better for you’,” said Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at St George’s University of London.  “To imply that a Walkers Salt and Vinegar Quaver is ‘better for you’ when it contains two and a half times the salt level of seawater is preposterous.  In the short term these products will make people, and young children in particular, very thirsty [4], and in the longer term they will contribute to raised blood pressure and increased risk of strokes and heart attacks."

“We are also very concerned that Walkers has only referred to the Guideline Daily Amount of salt for adults in this piece of promotion,” said Jo Butten, Nutritionist for CASH.  “A multipack bag of Walkers Ready Salted Crisps contains 20% of the daily maximum limit of salt for a three year old – almost three times the 7% figure highlighted by the leaflet.  And because the leaflet implies that it refers to ‘every crisp’ that Walkers makes, parents could easily be led to believe that a pack of Oven Roasted Chicken and Thyme crisps are a good choice for their child, when in fact they contain around 1.25g of salt – over half the daily limit for a 1-3 year old and over a third of the daily limit for a 4-6 year old.”

Jane Landon, deputy chief executive of the National Heart Forum commented:

"Reducing salt in the diet is an important measure to reduce the risk of raised blood pressure which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Some food manufacturers are making progress to help consumers eat less salt by reformulating products and introducing clear, unambiguous labelling. It is vital that others do not undermine consumer confidence in salt reduction claims by promoting confusing and potentially misleading messages about their products."

-ends-

[1] Below is a list of Walkers brand crisps that exceed 8% of an adults GDA for salt per pack/suggested serving, together with their salt contents. We have calculated the salt content from the sodium content per pack/suggested serving provided on the Walkers website in April 2006. At this time only sodium information was available. Please note that salt information has been added to the Walkers website for some products since this campaign has taken place so that the amount of salt per pack/suggested serving size may differ from our calculations.
productportion weightsalt per portion% of adult GDA
Pickled Onion Flavour Crisps*   34.5g0.6g10%
Salt and Vinegar Flavour Crisps*  34.5g0.8g13%
Max Chargrilled Steak    50g0.75g12%
Max Cheese and Onion50g1g17%
Max Paprika   50g0.75g12%
Walkers Lites Salt and Vinegar28g0.75g12%
Sensations Chargrilled Steak & Peppercorn Sauce  35g1g17%
Sensations Four Cheese & Red Onion35g1g17%
Sensations Oven Roasted Chicken & Thyme  35g1.25g21%
Sensations Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper    35g1.25g21%
Sensations Slow Roasted Lamb & Mint    35g1g17%
Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli35g1g17%

Information on the salt content of all Walkers crisps products can be found at: http://walkers.corpex.com/cr15p5/productshome.asp  By clicking on each brand, nutritional information can be found.  Where the sodium content is listed – this must be multiplied by 2.5 to reach the salt content.

*For Pickled Onion Flavoured Crisps and Salt and Vinegar Flavoured Crisps the salt information per pack was taken from the leaflet for which the complaint was upheld.
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[2] Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommended salt intakes for children and adults

AgeTarget Average salt intake (g/day)
0-6 months<1g
7-12 months 1 g
1-3 years2g
4-6 years3g
7-10 years5g
11-14 years6g
Adults6g
www.sacn.gov.uk
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