Sandwich survey

10 May 2004

CASH reveals very high hidden salt content of sandwiches

New research from Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) reveals that over one in five (22%) of shop-bought sandwiches contain over 3g of salt per serving, half of the total recommended daily intake for an adult. 44% of the 250 sandwiches surveyed contained over 2.5g (half a teaspoon) of salt, and two sandwiches from Safeway's 'The Best' range - Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche and Chicken Caesar - contained around the total recommended daily amount of salt - 6.4g and 5.9g respectively - in a single serving. Weight for weight, this is well over the salt concentration of sea water.

Furthermore, people often have no idea of how much salt their lunchtime sandwich contains, because the salt content is not declared on pack. The CASH survey revealed that Sainsbury's do not list the salt or sodium content of their sandwiches on pack, although their Customer Relations department was able to provide data for the survey. Pret a Manger and Eat customers have to consult the companies' websites if they want to know the sodium content of their sandwiches. Requests to the Customer Service Departments of Greggs plc, Baker's Oven, Costa Coffee, Coffee Republic and Shell service stations, revealed that these outlets do not provide any information on salt content at all!

"Many people think sandwiches are a healthy lunch option," said Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH. "But how can manufacturers justify selling sandwiches that contain over half, and in some cases all, our daily recommended limit of salt in a single serving? In no way can these sandwiches be described as a healthy option. And why do some manufacturers hide the salt content of their sandwiches? Whilst some retailers, such as the Co-op and Marks & Spencer, provide clear information on the salt content of their sandwiches, we found several that give no information on salt at all. I would like to see sandwiches with a high level of salt - i.e. more than 2.5g of salt per serving - carry a health warning. At the very least they must be labelled so that people can make an informed choice about what they are eating."

The greater the salt intake, the greater the risk of developing high blood pressure, the major cause of strokes, heart failure and heart attacks in the United Kingdom. A 6g reduction in the population's average salt intake would save 35,000 lives a year and prevent a further 35,000 heart attacks and strokes that people would otherwise suffer and survive.

Notes to Editors:
• The Consensus action on Salt and Health (CASH) is a group of the UK's leading experts on salt and its effects on health. It is working to reach a consensus with the food industry and government over the harmful effects of a high salt diet, and bring about a reduction in the amount of salt in processed foods as well as salt added to cooking and at the table, so that salt intake in the UK is reduced in adults to less than 6g a day.
• The CASH sandwich survey of 250 sandwiches was carried out across 16 sandwich providers, 5 of which did not provide any data. Information was collected between 16th March and 5th May 2004. Information on the salt content of the sandwiches came from on-pack labelling where possible, as well as from the retailers' customer service departments and from websites.
• British Sandwich Week is organised by the British Sandwich Association