Bakers hiding more salt in unlabelled bread – these high salt levels in bread are responsible for 7,000 UK deaths each year

15th November

CASH Comment

Bakers hiding more salt in unlabelled bread – these high salt levels in bread are responsible for 7,000 UK deaths each year

Comment from Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at St George’s University of London and Chairman of Consensus Action on Salt and Health, on research by Trading Standards Officers in Buckinghamshire (1):

“This research has discovered that the salt content of unwrapped – and therefore unlabelled – bread is around 20% higher than similar wrapped breads.  It also reveals huge variations in the salt contents of unwrapped breads, with some white farmhouse loaves containing around 50% more salt than others, and some wholemeal loaves containing around 75% more salt than others.

“Bread is the largest source of salt in the UK diet, so if the salt content of all the bread on sale in the UK was that of the lowest levels found in this survey – around 0.8g – 1.0g of salt per 100g – we could cut the average population daily intake of salt by around 1g.  Research has shown that a population cut of 1g of salt per day would equate to 7,000 lives saved each year (2).  Put another way, if bakers cut their salt levels to those of the lowest salt products already on the market, they would effectively save the lives of 7,000 people each year in this country.  It’s clear that bread can be produced with lower levels of salt – some supermarkets like Sainsbury’s are already selling bread with these salt levels.  So why are the other bakers not cutting salt further?

“The fact that customers buying unwrapped bread have no way of telling how much salt their bread contains is extremely worrying, especially if unwrapped bread, where no salt content has to be stated, generally contains more salt than wrapped loaves.  Consumers are urged to check labels and choose lower-salt products, but in the case of unwrapped breads, there is no way for them to do this.

“Some bakers and supermarkets should be congratulated for the efforts they have made to reduce salt in their bread. But this research proves what we have suspected for some time – that unwrapped bread generally has a higher salt content than wrapped bread because it does not have to declare its salt content.   Why, for instance, does an unwrapped Tesco Crusty White Farmhouse loaf contain 1.63g of salt per 100g, while a wrapped Tesco Finest Crusty White loaf only has 1.00g of salt per 100g?  How can Tesco explain a 63% difference between those two – seemingly very similar – products?”

 
-ends-

Notes to Editors and References:
(1) To see the Trading Standards research results, please go to:
http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/bcc/content/index.jsp?contentid=-934971150

(2) The calculation of 7,000 lives saved for each 1g drop in daily population intake of salt is taken from: Feng J He & Graham A MacGregor. How far should salt intake be reduced? Hypertension. 2003; 42: 1093-1099.