Public urged to boycott foods that are still unnecessarily high in salt

CASH celebrates progress on salt reduction in the UK - public urged to boycott foods that are still unnecessarily high in salt

29th January

New research from Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), to coincide with Salt Awareness Week (Jan 29th – Feb 4th), shows that many foods now have significantly less salt added than a few years ago.  Now that lower salt alternatives exist for nearly all categories of foods, the time has come for the consumer to boycott those that still have large and unnecessary amounts of salt added.

“CASH was set up 10 years ago, and was the first organisation to call for a sustained reduction in the amount of salt added to foods in order to lower blood pressure and thereby reduce the number of people dying and suffering from strokes and heart attacks, two of our biggest killers,” said Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH.  “Over the years we have surveyed many food categories and highlighted the foods with the highest salt contents. In this latest survey, we revisited 127 products we have previously ‘named and shamed’ to see how their salt contents have changed. We also looked at some examples of high-salt foods for which lower-salt alternatives now exist.

“I am very pleased to say that two thirds of the foods we re-surveyed (66%) have reduced their salt concentration.  This is really good news, as research shows that for every 1 gram per day average reduction in the UK population’s intake of salt, 7,000 deaths from strokes and heart attacks would be prevented [Ref 1].  Birds Eye, New Covent Garden Soups, Heinz and most supermarkets should be congratulated on their progress in doing what we have asked for and reducing the amount of salt they add to their foods.  By the end of 2007 Walkers will have reduced their salt contribution to the British diet by 25% compared to the start of 2004 and we hope other snack manufacturers will follow their example.

“Most cornflakes in the UK now have around two thirds the amount of salt they contained in 2004, (a 30% reduction) and Quaker Oats have reformulated their Oat Krunchies into Oat Crisp with only a quarter of their previous salt content.  However, some products still contain very high levels of salt.  For instance we recently found a Sainsbury’s product – Oat and Bran Flakes – with 2.4g of salt per 100g. As a comparison, Atlantic seawater contains 2.5g of salt per 100g. With so many alternative cereals available with far lower salt contents, we want people to stop buying high salt products like this.”

Products found to have a high salt content include:  
• Peperami sticks, highlighted in March 2005, still have around 1.0g of salt per 25g stick, 4.0g salt per 100g.   One stick contains half a three year-olds total daily limit for salt.
• Dairylea Dunkers Twists, highlighted in December 2004, still have 2.3g of salt per 100g.  One pack contains a third of a six year-old’s daily limit.  
• Quaker Salt and Vinegar flavoured Snack-a-Jacks, contain 5.1 g salt/100g (1.5g of salt contained in a 30g bag, a quarter of an adult’s daily limit)
• Sainsbury’s / Tesco Crumpets contain 2.0g of salt per 100g (1.8g of salt per serving of two crumpets)
• Tesco Finest Tomato and Mascarpone Sauce (for pasta) – 2.3g salt per 100g
• Seeds of Change Creamy Tomato Soup - 3.9 g salt per 350g portion
• Batchelors Minestrone Cup a Soup with Croutons made up with 230ml water as directed – 2.4g salt per portion.

“These products, several of them aimed at children, are all high in salt, and would qualify for a ‘red’ label under the FSA traffic light labelling system,” said Jo Butten, Nutritionist for CASH.  “In every case there are lower salt alternatives on the market and we now feel that people should boycott these persistently high-salt products. If sales of these products fall, the manufacturers will be forced to reformulate them, so we would urge shoppers not to buy products that contain either more than 1.25g of salt (0.5g of sodium) per 100g or more than 2.4g of salt per serving.”

Bread is the largest source of salt in the UK diet, and reductions in the amount of salt added have been made by many bakers, with many loaves now containing around 0.8g – 1.0g of salt per 100g.  For instance, a white crusty Farmhouse loaf bought from Marks and Spencer in September 2004 contained 1.75g of salt per 100g, whereas the same product bought at the end of 2006 contained around half this amount – 0.9g salt per 100g.  However, some bread still contains as much as 1.5g of salt per 100g.  CASH wants people to avoid buying Tesco’s Stayfresh Medium Sliced Wholemeal bread (1.5g salt per 100g) and choose Sainsbury’s I Stay Fresher For Longer Medium Sliced Wholemeal bread instead, as it contains much less salt - 0.9g per 100g.  Indeed, any bread that contains more than 1.25g of salt per 100g should be boycotted, as lower salt alternatives exist.

“The UK is leading the world on salt reduction – many of our food manufacturers should be congratulated on the effort they have made to reduce the amount of salt they add to our foods,” said Professor MacGregor. “This proves that lower salt versions can be developed and we must now support the lower salt products and vote with our feet when it comes to the ones that have not been reformulated or still contain unnecessarily high amounts of salt.  If we halve our salt intake, i.e. make a reduction of 6g/day from the current intake of 10-12g, we will save approximately 70,000 people from developing strokes and heart attacks each year, 35,000 of which are fatal [Ref 2].”  

Notes to Editors and References:
Refs. 1 and 2: The calculations of 7,000 lives saved for each 1g drop in daily population intake of salt and 35,000 lives saved if the 6g target is reached (down from an average of 11g) are taken from: Feng J He & Graham A MacGregor. How far should salt intake be reduced? Hypertension. 2003; 42: 1093-1099.   

Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommended salt intakes for children and adults (

Target Average salt intake (g/day)
0-6 months<1g
7-12 months1 g
1-3 years2g
4-6 years3g
7-10 years5g
11-14 years6g


Food to avoid Better options
Sainsbury’s Oat & Bran Flakes (2.4g salt per 100g)Nestle Shredded Wheat (trace salt per 100g)
Tesco Stayfresh Wholemeal Bread (1.5g salt per 100g)Sainsbury’s I Stay Fresher for Longer Wholemeal Bread (0.9g salt per 100g)
Dairylea Dunkers Twists (2.3g salt per 100g)M&S Cool Cheesy Dippers (0.8g salt per 100g)
Quaker Salt and Vinegar Snack-a-Jacks (5.1g salt per 100g)Unsalted crisps / Applesnapz fruit and vegetable crisps (trace salt per 100g)
 Unilever Peperami Sticks (around 4.0g salt per 100g)Sainsbury’s Tikka Chicken Breast Slices (0.4g salt per 100g)
Tesco/Sainsbury’s Crumpets (2.0g salt per 100g)

M&S Classic Crumpets (0.9g salt per 100g) or

Tesco Value Teacakes (0.8g salt per 100g)

Tesco Finest Tomato and Mascarpone Sauce (2.3g salt per 100g)Tesco Italian Tomato and Mascarpone Sauce (1.0g salt per 100g)
Seeds of Change Creamy Tomato Soup (3.9g salt per 350g serving)New Covent Garden Food Co Plum Tomato and Basil Soup (0.6g salt per 300g serving)
Batchelors Minestrone Cup a Soup with Croutons made with 230ml water (2.4g salt per portion)
Sainsbury’s Soup in a Cup with croutons made with 200ml water  (1.2g salt per portion)
Dairylea Cheese, Slices, Light (2.3g salt per 100g)Tesco cheese spread (0.8g salt per 100g)


FoodSalt content when ‘named and shamedCurrent salt contentUnder 1.25g per 100g?
New Covent Garden Chicken Soup2.5g / 100g0.6g / 100gYes
Safeway Chicken Caesar Sandwich5.9g / pack1.3g / pack (Now Morrison’s ‘The Best’)Yes
Quaker Oats Krunchies3.0g / 100g0.75g / 100g (Now Quaker Oat Crisp)Yes
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes2.38g /100g1.8g / 100gNo
Golden Vale Cheese Strings2.25g / 100g1.77g / 100gNo