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Britains saltiest foods survey

worst offenders sept 2004 [DOC 76KB] [XLS 76 KB]  (full survey results) 

New research published today reveals the huge differences in salt content that exist among some of our most popular foods.  Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) examined around 3,000 foods from eight categories in 12 UK supermarkets, and found that in some cases there was a thirty-fold difference between the most salty and least salty foods.  Interestingly, many supermarket own-label products were among the saltiest foods, despite claims by retailers that they are leading the way in salt reductions.

In a typical day’s food[1], someone eating the most salty foods found in the survey would consume around 21g of salt – over three times the recommended 6g maximum for an adult.  By contrast, someone eating an almost identical day’s food, but choosing the least salty varieties would consume only around 4.5g of salt.

“This research proves that it is possible to produce lower-salt variants of popular foods, and the fact that they are on sale in our supermarkets shows that the public are happy to buy and eat them,” said Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman of CASH and Professor of Cardiovascular medicine.  “So why are the makers of the highest salt products still pouring tonnes of this chemical into our food?”

“Our findings show that people can buy ready-made foods with lower salt contents, but they would have to shop in many different supermarkets in order to seek them out,” continues Professor MacGregor.  “If Somerfield can make a pork pie with 1g of salt per 100g of product, why must a portion of Mark’s and Spencer’s pork and egg pie contain almost twice this amount?   And if people are happy to buy Joubere organic soups that contain 0.13g salt per portion, why does Seeds of Change think it has to add almost 4.5g of salt to a portion of its organic fresh soup?”

 “This research clearly demonstrates that the food industry, including the major retailers, could easily produce foods with far lower concentrations of salt.  They now need to take immediate action to do so.  If they do not, they will be responsible for 70,000 heart attacks and strokes, half of which are fatal, which now occur each year in the UK because of our unnecessarily high salt intake.” 


1.  A day’s meals, choosing the saltiest food:

Breakfast – Quaker Oat Krunchies = 1.5g salt
2 slices M&S toast (weight not specified, but medium/large slice) = 2g
2 Sainsbury’s hot & spicy sausages (114g) and tomatoes = 2.84g
Snack – A third portion of Marks and Spencer’s pork and egg pie (147g) = 1.84g

Lunch - 1/2 large Lidl Giant Pepperoni and Ham Pizza (293g) = 5.12g

Dinner - Seeds of Change Organic Tomato Soup (350g) = 4.46g
2 Tesco smoked salmon fish cakes (180g) and vegetables = 3.60g

This totals 21.36g for a day or over 3 times the 6g a day daily recommended target.

A day’s meals, choosing the least salty food

Breakfast – Iceland wholewheat fruit and nut muesli (50g portion) = trace
 2 slices toast (Sainsbury’s medium sliced white bread)* (25g) = 0.5g
 2 Co-op Lincolnshire sausages (100g) and tomatoes = 1.0g

Snack - 1 Somerfield Pork pie (63g - medium sized pie) = 0.95g

Lunch - 1/2 large Somerfield funky food factory cheese and tomato deep pan Pizza (236g)** = 1.1g

Dinner – Joubere Chicken, pumpkin, jalapeno pepper chilli Soup (250g) = 0.13g
               2 Somerfield fish cakes (84g)*** and vegetables = 0.84g

This totals 4.52g salt for a day, well within the 6g maximum

* other brands also have 0.25g salt / slice of medium sliced white bread including Warburton, Iceland, Asda, Budgens, Safeway, Mother’s Pride, Nimble, Somerfield

** this is not the lowest salt item but is better matched for weight than the lower salt pizza (Waitrose perfectly roast vegetable balanced pizza = 150g)

*** a portion of the Somerfield fish cakes are half the size of the ‘worst’ Tesco salmon fish cakes. However if you had 4 Somerfield fish cakes you would still have less than half the salt of a portion of the ‘worst offender’ Tesco fish cakes (ie 4 Somerfield fish cakes = 1.68g; 2 Tesco fish cakes = 3.6g

2. He FJ, Macgregor GA. How far should salt be reduced? Hypertension 2003; 42: 1093-1099

SACN Recommended salt intakes


Target Average salt intake (g/day)

0-6 months


7-12 months

1 g

1-3 years


4-6 years


7-10 years


11-14 years




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