New research from CASH reveals how close we are to poisoning our children with salt
A child’s daily food intake could contain an astonishing six times the Government's recommended daily salt limit for a four to six year-old (3g per day), new research from Consensus Action on Salt and Health reveals. The 18g of salt contained in the sample day's food is close to the level of salt implicated in recent high-profile cases of apparent salt poisoning in young children.
Commenting on the CASH research, George Haycock, Professor of Paediatrics at Guy's Hospital and an expert in developmental renal physiology, said: "An acute salt load in the order of 20g would be sufficient to raise a child's plasma sodium above the normal range, a situation known to be potentially dangerous."
Although in normal life the salt is eaten over the course of a day, and not given to the child all at one time, this research suggests that parents who choose certain brands on a daily basis could be close to feeding their children with very dangerous levels of salt.
CASH surveyed 100 products aimed specifically at children. 30% contained at least or over 2g of salt per single serving, the daily limit for a one to three year-old. 9% contained at least or over 3g per single serving, the daily limit for a four to six year-old. Two food items were saltier than seawater (Bernard Matthews Dinosaur Turkey Roll – 20% more salty than seawater and Pepperami sticks which have 170% the salt content of seawater.)
CASH also looked at a day's menu including: Golden Grahams breakfast cereal and a piece of toast; a snack of Dairylea Lunchables; lunch of Mr Greedy tinned hot dogs in gravy with HP pasta shapes in tomato sauce; supper of a Scooby Doo chicken nugget meal followed by Angel Delight, plus a bag of crisps for a treat. The combined salt content for the day was 18.07g, with three of the individual food items containing over 3g of salt, the recommended limit for a whole day for a four to six year-old. By comparison, a day's menu of similar products made by different manufacturers contained just 2.55g of salt, well under the 3g limit. (See below for details of the two day's meals.)
"We hear from food manufacturers that they are taking steps to reduce the amount of salt they add to our foods, and yet many are still marketing food for children that contains more salt per serving than a child should be eating in a whole day," says Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of CASH and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine.
"We know that high salt diets are linked to cancer of the stomach (Ref 1) and that salt puts up blood pressure in children just as it does in adults (Ref 2). Raised blood pressures causes more than half of all strokes and heart disease. These are the leading causes of death and disability in the UK. There have also been tragic cases of children being killed by being fed large quantities of salt. Salt, in these quantities, is a dangerous chemical, so why are these very high-salt foods still allowed to be sold to children?"
Lower salt foods for children are available – Heinz pasta shapes contain far less salt than their HP equivalent; Birds Eye chicken dippers have almost a third of the salt concentration of Bernard Matthews Turkey Twizzlers, and Marks & Spencer's Loved by Kids Spaghetti Bolognese has just a tenth of the salt concentration of Sainsbury's Blue Parrot Café Spaghetti Bolognese.
"Some manufacturers are able to make children's foods without dangerous levels of salt, so why aren't others?" continues Professor MacGregor. "It's time for those sections of the food industry that are still adding high levels of salt to their products to act more responsibly and stop condemning our children to a future of premature cardiovascular disease."